Are we pushing toddlers into school too young? This was a question I asked myself, whilst sitting down with my parents emersing ourselves in the family photo albums. I spot a picture of me whilst at nursery school. I’m dressed as a princess and my best friend as the king. Smiles all around and we all looked so happy and carefree. There was plenty of storytelling, hours of playtime, cooking in the classroom, singing songs, and learning my alphabet - all of them happy relaxed memories. Fast-forward to when my oldest daughter entered nursery. At 3yrs and 9 months and boy how things had changed.
Her first experience of school was to be flooded with instructions - hang coat on this peg, shoes need to be changed, sit here quietly, look at this book (biff and chip level 2) whilst mum reads it to you whilst everyone settles. Right parents you can leave whilst we start phonics.. What..wait - what happened to the fun parts?
Shrugging off my thoughts - after all I wouldn't want to be the over protective parent, my daughter fortunately flourished. She taught herself to read, she got stuck in and seemed to be loving life at school. Perhaps the new methods of phonics, instructions, reading and not a great deal of outdoor time was the way forward. Her move to reception was easy, she could already master most of the required skills and her report had lots of ticks.
Second child and things were a little different. The old traditional nusery leader had left to be replaced with a teacher that loved seeing her little chicks smile and have fun but alas the list of what they need to know before reception seemed to have grown. Now second child is not a natural studious child. He is a a typical boy! He needs fresh air, mud and simple instructions. He isn't mature for his age, couldn't care less if his dinner is all over his face and no way will he want to sit still. As a toddler he was strong, energetic, loud and boistrous.
I still remember watching him at the nursery Christmas play he didn't look particularly happy. A lot of sitting then marching around and singing. At one point whilst he gazed wishfully out the window I questioned again if this is the right environment for a 4 year old.
This can’t be good. This is wrong. I kept thinking, over and over as I watched him It only got worse from that day on as he started school.
They also started pushing reading so much that my child started coming home saying, “I hate school. I hate reading.”
Children and toddlers are expected to do more than ever before at a very young age.
What we recall as the precious skill-building and playful days of play groups, in my opinion seem gone. Creating a heavily focussed academic environment early in life, with little time to play is already developmentally inappropriate and most likely damaging. On top of this, more and more children are not spending enough time outside. Therefore, a lot of children are lacking the sensory and motor experiences they need from hours of outdoor play to develop into strong and capable children. Instead, many children are having difficulties with balance, attention, coordination, and strength before they even enter school.
Maybe thats why STRIDER is more than a business and a job to my husband and I. We actively encourage both our children to do sport. One loves cycling, the other running but I do thank my lucky stars we introduced Strider to both whilst young, as they both embrace exercise and the outdoors.