In a typical session he would have kids jump off step stools and hit a beach ball, throw a ball to knock over bowling pins, or sit on the floor building with wood blocks and small people figures. The program was intended to identify children who needed help before they got to kindergarten.
It was an open ended grant, and it gave me a chance to observe several thousand children over those years. When I first started in the pre-schools, I would usually see children in each class that were quickly recognized as needing extra help. Twelve years later, I would see as many as half the children in some classes lagging behind in their skills, and needing extra help.
So we have a whole generation of 3 year olds arriving in pre-schools who have been more sedentary and are less prepared physically than ever before, and what are we doing in pre-school? Yet children who arrive in pre-school with weak muscles, sagging posture and short attention spans are less and less prepared for the new world of expectations in many pre-schools. They are expected to sit and focus for longer than has ever been expected before, and they are less and less prepared, so it is no wonder they wind up frustrated and acting out.
Ask any pediatrician to describe how often they are prescribing ADHD medication for children under the age of five. We are setting up children for failure rather than success, and we could be doing so much more. The remedy sounds blissfully simple: The causes are varied, but point to a real change in how parents allow their babies and toddlers to play and explore. There is a huge increase in children with plagiocephaly flat heads that result from spending so much time on their backs while the skull bones are still soft and pliable.
Infants are crawling less as parents place them in seats and devices that keep them still. Parents want their kids to be safe. Since preschools serve the public, the public monitors them through government regulations: The kinds of simple equipment that used to be found in every center, such as swings and climbers, are fast disappearing in the name of raising safety standards.
When modifications prove too costly, most centers simply remove them. It does no good for day care providers to complain, and they must comply with the new rules or risk losing their license to operate.
I firmly believe that government should set high standards for the safety of our children. But in recent years, a strange process of adding more and more regulations and restrictions has produced serious unintended consequences. I do not know why state agencies like the Massachusetts EEC have grown so rigid and out of touch with the community of professionals they oversee.
Why create rules that restrict children from being children, and keep teachers and day care providers from doing what they know is best practice? Government helps to create the problem that it provides grants such as the one Tom Murphy describes to study. And why are parents misguided? One reason is that American culture thinks of motivation as carrot and stick.
Human resources are expendable if your workforce is a sweatshop in Asia. Since the US has the weakest labor laws and the longest work week of any advanced economy, getting a choice job means survival. To keep play under control, business and government fight to limit medical and unemployment insurance, sharpening insecurity.
A century ago, when the psychologist G. Stanley Hall and others also worried about overprotected kids, they recommended wilderness and wildness to shake up the tameness. Today that would be unthinkable. The factories have gone to China, but competition still encourages a factory mentality. In higher ed these days, students are showing signs of panic when they choose a major that promises a job, whether or not it suits them.
In fact, tech is also programming play. Preschoolers may be physically lagging overall, yet show highly developed thumbs from video gaming. The games are machines that program players. Sometimes worry about death is deadly. As in law, so in play: In , he founded the Bogin Playscape Project boginplayscapeproject. Two playgrounds have been completed, and a third will be finished in Spring He also works with Arlene Spooner, PT CEIS, a pediatric physical therapist, and gives training workshops on motor development for children infant to age 5.