One of the parents at my Montessori Pre-school recently asked my advice about how to get her daughter more excited about her extra-curricular activities. Apparently this 3 year old girl was getting very teary about going to her various classes during the week (including swimming, "fairy-ballet" and a 'kid's cooking class') in addition to her days at Pre-school and this mum was wondering how she could help her daughter become enthusiastic about these things again. My advice was pretty simple - "slow down!". I pointed out that all of these experiences - going swimming, dancing and cooking - could be done in a much more natural and joyful way than having to rush straight from a day at Pre-school to get home and changed and rush back out to the prescheduled lessons! Just to clarify - I have absolutely no problem with these activities and I think they are really wonderful, enlightening and (particularly in the case of swimming) important practical opportunities for a young child. I just also happen to think that parents have been somewhat disempowered - they seem to think these experiences only 'count' if they are done by professionals at a class that has been booked and paid for. As a result we have a generation of stressed-out, hurried children who are learning to see experiences like dancing as a chore, not a joyful expression, and a group of parents who feel that they are stretching themselves to the limits (in terms of time and finances) to offer their child every experience possible only to find that the child becomes disinterested or disillusioned! So my new advice, when parents ask me how they can get their child 'motivated' for some of these extra-curricular experiences, is simply "slow down!". In fact, I've put it in a poem...
Slow down, grown ups!
Early in the morning…. at the beginning of the day…
the grown ups start to hurry… but the kids just want to play!
Everybody must get dressed, the breakfast must be made,
There’s such a rush to get to work, there are bills that must be paid!
Juggling dressing kids and making lunch parents really start to worry,
Children duck to avoid the clothes and bread that are flying in a flurry.
“There’s so much to do and so little time so put down all those toys,
We have to rush to fit it in so hurry girls and boys!”
At school it feels the teachers are sprinting through each lesson,
Just when things are interesting – STOP! – and start the next session.
One brain is finally ready right now to read that word
But the schedule says Maths so to read now would be absurd.
“Come along you’re understanding too slow! If you really want to pass
you need to learn to learn more quickly so hurry up class!”
After school there’s no time to stop, it is not time to relax,
In this modern world we all must live life to the max.
The optional ‘fun’ activities might begin to feel like chores
When lots of stress is caused by ballet, swimming, piano and more.
“Throw on your tutu, bathers beneath, we’ve scheduled in some fun
and it only runs from two til three so hurry little ones!”
After dinner there’s no time to play or build that old train track
After all his work playing on the floor is too hard on poor dad’s back.
Anyway it’s bath time now, then teeth, PJs on and bed,
The story book is shelved tonight, just watch a DVD instead.
“It’s been a busy day today, but to schedule we did keep,
Now you need to be rested to hurry tomorrow, so hurry off to sleep!”
As the children close their eyes they think back on the day gone by,
They remember hurry, no time, sorry, why are you so slow? must fly.
They think of all the things that there was just no time to do,
No free exploring, gentle touching, time to think things through.
As eyelids start to flutter dreamy smiles erase the worried frown,
And a tiny, tired voice whispers “grown ups, please slow down!”