Recently, I came across a great article entitled Ten Things to Do with Your Child Before Age Ten. I was really encouraged by the section devoted to play and exploration. I've been finding it hard lately to balance what I know is good for my children, and what they might enjoy. Some weeks I look back and it seems like all we did was 'entertain' the children and lost out on the 'training' of our children. The world today is a busy place and there are lots of things that are readily accessible to chose from, but not all of those things are necessarily beneficial to our children's well being. Not to say that trips to the Aquarium, library, parks, watching movies, having computer time, etc. are all bad things, they can be useful and educational in small doses. But, it seems that because there are so many things to chose from every day, it can be easy to overlook the fact that my sole purpose is not to entertain my children. God instructs us in Proverbs to 'train up a child in the way he/she should go'. Many days it seems so much easier to pop in a video or pack up and head to the park, but I need to not lose sight of the precious time I have been given to be with them and train them in the ways of the Lord. It's easy to become overwhelmed in this stage of life, and with so many easy 'fixes' it would be convenient to fall into the pit of entertaining my children rather than educating them. Here's a little excerpt from the article that I thought was right on.
"Give the child plenty of time to explore and play. Do not buy "toystore" toys — they are expensive and are usually forgotten after the newness wears off. Invest in real things. Garage sales and auctions are an unending source for things like sewing machines, small tools for working in the garden, hammers, nails, and things for building, some wooden blocks, and dress-up clothes. Buy tools for exploring (a good microscope, telescope, binoculars, dissecting equipment, basic chemistry equipment, etc.), not toys for adoring. Teach your children how to use them responsibly (safe, neat, and orderly — clean up when you are done), and make them readily available for when they want to use them.
It is not only important that you do some things, it is important that you not do some things. It always seems like there are more do not’s than there are do’s. Do not set your child in front of a television screen. Television is bad. We mean the screen itself. It is unhealthy for the body, and especially for the eyes. Visual strain is the number-one problem of frequent computer users. Studies estimate that anywhere from fifty to ninety percent of regular computer users experience visual deterioration.
The material on the screen is also bad. The entertainment method of learning creates a sort of entertainment addiction — the child wants to be entertained all of the time — he wants his visual and auditory senses stimulated (overstimulated). Every child needs to learn to spell through touch and taste and smell, and through interaction with real human beings who smile and answer back. He needs to learn in submission to the authority of real parents, not the authority of glamorized, always-happy, limitlessly-resourceful, never-tired substitutes who have absolutely no accountability. Need we say more?"
I certainly needed the encouragement this article provided and even the little wrist slap to refocus my energies on where they truly need to be.