I do not intend to make a political statement, so please bear with me.
Several decades ago my wife and I moved to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin which had kindergarten for four year old kids. Neither my wife Mary nor I attended any kindergarten so we were excited about it. Our two oldest sons attended and we looked at it as a rare treat! Some years later we move to another school district which did not offer pre-K so our third son and our daughter only attended one year of kindergarten. In our family experiment of four, we found no difference between those who attended and those who did not; all the kids have done well. None-the-less, I still love kindergarten for four year olds. But not everyone agrees. Let me explain.
Last week Charles Krauthammer of Fox news said if President Obama’s federally sponsored, compulsory kindergarten for four year olds is enacted, the four year old kids will be the losers. Four year olds, he said, are home playing, laughing, shouting, and learning to live, as they should be. But, I disagree!
Perhaps in his neighborhood when his son was four that’s what kids did, but today too many kids spend their days lying, or squirming, on the floor watching TV. Many are being kept quiet by eating chips, cookies, or dry cereal. Many others are also sucking on “sippy” cups most of the day. They get too many calories, and too little exercise. Worst of all they spend no time out of doors. There parents or baby sitters are afraid to let them out side for fear they will be kidnapped.
Kidnapping is a topic for another day, but just let me say in some neighborhoods it is a reality as is drive-by shooting. But in most neighborhoods kidnapping is not a real concern. Most kidnappers are know to the family. Former friends of the family, estranged parents, ex-boyfriends of the mother, ex-girlfriends of the father, or some other person who knows the child and at least one of the parents are by far, the most common offender. The problem is that if a kid is kidnapped the news media tells the entire country – perhaps world – in the next 10 minutes. I will not comment if that is a good thing or not, but I do know that it feeds fear of kidnapping. And fear in general is not good. Just another reason to choose your friends carefully.
What should four year old kids be doing?
First, they should be playing outside and getting dirty. Multiple studies show playing outside, especially in green areas like grassy lawns, woods, creeks, and even parks reduces the incidence of ADD and ADHD, which explains why these two problems are prevalent today. It also makes kids tired enough to get more, better sleep, lowers the rate of sibling and peer fighting, and teaches them to play with others. Strangely, it also increases appetite for wholesome foods and forces them to put down the “Sippy” cup. And, getting dirty lowers the incidence of asthma, other allergies, and helps build immunity to many diseases.
Second, kids this age should have stories read to them! Reading to preschoolers helps them become “readers”. And reading, as we all know, is the basis of learning; readers become the best students and have the most successful careers. Parents and/or other care givers should read to this age group at least an hour each day, and 2 hours is more than twice as good.
Third, they need to learn “sit”, “stay”, “come”, “wait”, and, most importantly, kids must learn what “no” means!
Fourth, preschoolers should avoid TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that TV and other screen time for preschoolers should be limited to no more than 1-2 hours per day. Those under 2 should not have any screen time, and no child, of any age, including teens, should have a TV or computer in their bedroom. I think it’s best for this age kid to avoid TV completely.
When we look at pre-school and kindergartens we find very limited use of TV. On the other hand, we see day care centers, many nanny’s, and parents using TV as a baby sitter. These schools also provide inside and outside exercise, healthy food, and snacks only when needed, and time to nap, as well as instruction in the basic commands mentioned in three above.
In my opinion, kindergarten for four year olds is important in so many places. But I agree with Krauthammer that in some other places it may not be at all necessary. So, my thought is that the decision should be made at the local school district level. The parents and officials — school board — know what’s going on in their community and should act accordingly.
If we need to do something for all the kids in USA, we should make sure that they all have a safe place to play out of doors. Not in a street or parking lot, but somewhere they can run in the grass, climb trees, chase squirrels, feed the birds, and get some real dirt under their nails.
What do you think?