Preparing For The Fall

[Image description: A blue, watercolor-y background with white words on top of it. The title reads, “the ‘get your child ready for school in the fall’ summer checklist”. The checklist contains these items: “Play outside, play in dirt, play in mud, play in water, play in sand, play with dough, play with paint, play with markers, play with food, play with cardboard boxes, read books together.” The image was made by me, The Occuplaytional Therapist. End description.]

…I was going to put “play with scissors” and “play riskily” on here, too, but I thought that might freak people out TOO much. πŸ˜‰

Seriously, though. It’s the start of summer break at the American schools I work at. I know English schools go awhile longer before having more of a break in August, and I have no idea how Canadian, Australian, or my other readers’ school systems work. But in America there’s something of a pressure to make your kid do academic work over the summer, or else they might lose their skills or struggle when they return to an academic setting or whatever.

But what with the erosion that I’ve seen of the power of play in childhood, the way that American schools are edging it out further and further in favor of pushing too-early academics and developmentally inappropriate expectations?

I got nothing to say to all of that except “nah”. Spend the whole summer never once thinking about math…OR, even better, let children think about fractions in terms of baking cookies with Dad, money math in terms of running a lemonade stand, weights and measures in terms of how many scoops of dirt it takes to make just the right consistency of mud for whatever mud-hole experiment they’re running perpetually in my backyard.

Play. Play. Play. It’s so important. Go on a vacation, go to camp, sure, and then fill all the other gaps and holes with free, unstructured play. Protect it like it’s essential to your child’s well-being, because it is. Play is how they process the world, how they develop emotional regulation, how they improve their fine motor and gross motor skills, how they have experiences that are worth flexing their linguistic skills about, how their sensory systems make sense of the world around them, how they experiment and reason and explore cause-and-effect and a bajillion other things.