As my children get older, I become more concerned with the current focus of giving kids great swathes of homework to do outside of school.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't believe homework unto itself is bad, but I do believe that home is a place where a different sort of learning should occur. I have no issue with my kids needing to read and record it. I have no problem with them having to focus on a single subject each night in order to reinforce learning.
I do however have an issue with a child needing to spend several hours a day after school doing homework.
Here are 25 things I think they should do instead:
An important part of how young kids’ minds develop is through free, self-directed play. And nowadays, free play is critical than ever, as recesses are shortened or eliminated, and kids’ calendars are busier than ever. Through play, children create new learning experiences, and those self-created experiences enable them to acquire social, emotional, and intellectual skills they could not acquire any other way.
2. TALK WITH THEIR PARENTS
I’ve heard from countless friends about their daily battles with their primary-aged kids struggling to do homework, and the way it’s negatively affected their relationships. Instead of parents nagging their overtired kids to do their homework, families should be spending time talking together about their day. In fact, conversation is the best way for all of us, especially young children, to learn about our world and cultivate empathy.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that between 25 and 30% of children aren’t getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of problems in kids including poor attention, behavioural problems, academic difficulties, irritability, and weight gain. But even small amounts of additional sleep can have big impacts. One study found that only 20 additional minutes of sleep can improve kids grades.
4. INDEPENDENT READING
Most of us know that developing good habits (and hopefully a love of reading) is critical to doing well at school. However, homework can actually interfere with the time that kids can spend on reading.
5. LISTEN TO A STORY
Studies show that kids who are read out loud to do better in school and have better vocabularies.
6. WORK ON A PUZZLE
Being able to play on their own without adults (called “solitary play”) builds confidence in kids and makes them more relaxed. Puzzles also develops their problem solving, logical thinking and patience.
7. GO UP A SLIDE BACKWARDS
"Risky” activities like climbing a tree is good for kids. Children need to explore their own limits, to be able to assess risks, and to learn how to negotiate their environments. In fact, researchers theorise that risky play, found across all cultures and in other mammals, has a evolutionary role in preparing offspring for life without their caretakers.
8. DIG IN THE DIRT
Who would have thought?! Sensory play is also critical for kids’ development. When kids knead clay or finger paint, they are stimulating their senses. Sensory experiences provide open-ended opportunities where the process is more important than the product because how children use materials is much more important than what they make with them.
9. PLAY WITH FRIENDS
Parallel play, or the type of play in which kids play next to each other, begins in toddlers. But even for older kids, parallel play can help develop critical social skills.
10. HELP WITH DINNER
Kids who learn about new foods, and how to prepare them, may be more likely to choose more nutritious foods later on.
11. WALK THE DOG
Kids who help take care of family pets may be less anxious, less likely to develop allergies and asthma, and are more active, responsible and forward thinking.
12. PLANT A GARDEN
Kids who work in gardens may have higher achievement scores in science than those who don’t. That’s because they’re actively engaging in scientific concepts and practising maths skills as they learn about plants.
13. PRACTICE AN INSTRUMENT
Kids who participate in musical activities are thought to have brains that are better wired for literacy skills according to one study. In fact, the role of music in aiding general education is currently an expanding field. Plus, if they become a rock star, I can retire.
14. HANG OUT AT GRANDMA’S
Encouraging multi-generational relationships can yield many lessons for kids. They can learn how other adult role models in their lives who love them handle conflict, create and negotiate rules and routines, and embrace family traditions.
5. DRAW A PICTURE
For kids who have trouble expressing themselves verbally, drawing can be a way for them to relax and communicate in a different way.
16. DO A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT
Kids are naturally curious and want to know how things work. Scientific exploration outside the classroom may be particularly effective at teaching kids about scientific thinking. Plus it's messy and fun!
17. PLAY DRESS UP
The significance of “pretend” play for kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills is difficult to overstate. When kids pretend they’re superheroes or talk to stuffed animals, they’re learning about social roles, setting the stage for later learning, and processing ideas from the world around them.
18. WRESTLE WITH A SIBLING
“Rough and tumble” play is not the same as aggression. It’s vigorous, free-form, whole-body, energetic, happy play. Kids learn decision-making skills, relieve stress, improve their ability to read social cues, and enhance their cardio-vascular health.
19. CLEAN THEIR ROOM
A University of Minnesota researcher, Marty Rossman, found that one of the best predictors of a kid’s future success is whether they contributed to household chores as a young child. According to Rossman, “Through participating in household tasks, parents are teaching children responsibility, how to contribute to family life, a sense of empathy and how to take care of themselves.”
Which is great because Ijust want them to clean their damn room.
20. WRITE A STORY
By writing down stories, kids can express their feelings, stretch their imaginations, and practice their fine motor skills.
21. ZONE OUT
Just as important as play is “down time.” Downtime is when kids are allowed to literally do not much of anything, like sit around and listen to music or stare at the ceiling. These moments allow children to reflect, rest, and reset their minds and bodies.
22. TAKE PICTURES
As mentioned before, drawing or writing can help kids who struggle to communicate, express themselves in a comfortable way. Photography is simply another way for those children who are more visual.
23. RIDE A BIKE
Kids who are physically active have stronger hearts, lungs, and bones. They are less likely to develop cancer or be overweight and more likely to feel good about themselves.
24. LISTEN TO A LONG BEDTIME STORY
Babies, children and adults sleep better when they have a regular, slow-paced bedtime routine. Kids who don’t have bedtime routines are more likely to have behavioural problems, be hyperactive and suffer from emotional difficulties. Plus, bedtime stories are one of THE best family bonding experiences.
25. PLAY “SIMON SAYS”
During cooperative games, kids collaborate to reach a common goal. There may be a leader, and kids start to learn about social contracts and social rules.
In essence, I believe that my kids deserve a chance to spend most of their hours outside school doing their most important job: being a kid.