I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few days. We are in the early days of “shelter in place.” It is a challenging time. In my role as Head of School at New Morning School, I’m receiving by email every promotion by every company offering school curriculum. They’re all screaming – it’s free, you need it.
At New Morning School, our teachers and students have been engaged in remote learning since the first day that school was closed. The teachers are on fire with engaging ideas and the students are doing the work. The teachers, too, receive these curriculum offers. When is enough enough?
With what felt like no warning, suddenly parents, on top of their employment, are expected to be teachers of their children. Some school districts are providing little guidance; others a great deal. It feels like everything is screaming at us: do this, you must do this, try this! When is enough enough?
I want to share with you why it is not your job to entertain your kids. Should you keep them current on their assignments? Yes. Should you provide some structure for their learning? Yes. Should you supplement with ideas if your district does not? Yes. BUT, put some limits on it.
IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO ENTERTAIN YOUR KIDS EVERY MINUTE.
In fact, here’s why it’s important to lay back and put on the brakes.
What children need during COVID-19 time
Kids need unstructured time. If you are constantly entertaining your children, they are not being given opportunities to initiate play. We don’t want to grow children that only do what they’re told. We want to grow children who are resilient, creative, and most importantly, can self-initiate; in other words, we want them to play!
Play is very important. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, writes, “The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself. Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. These are all qualities of a state of play.”
You’ve experienced this timelessness with your children when you have played with them. Let them create their own play. Sometimes they have to be “bored” for a bit, but watch and they will engage themselves in a new activity. (Word of caution: limit screen time if you want to see genuine play.)
Before I leave the subject of play, I hope that you have time in your day to watch this YouTube video about a polar bear playing with a husky. Even in the wild, animals play. It’s just a couple minutes long.
So, next time you feel attacked by the “you musts,” “you shoulds,” and the “be a great parent,” sit back and relax. Don’t worry that you need to entertain your children every minute, even during these times of adding “teacher” to your job description. Give kids time each day to initiate their own play. You’ll be amazed to see what they create.
Elaine Kennedy is Head of School at New Morning School in Plymouth, MI. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.