Let's Talk Kids: "Cute Is A Four-Letter Word"
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers have been underestimated since the beginning of time, rarely getting credit for the very real work they do each day. To think of young children as simply “cute” is to objectify them rather than recognizing them as real people who are working to develop skills and understand the world.
Critically important development occurs during the earliest years of life which impacts us for the rest of our lives. In the 1960s, researchers Risley and Hart studied hundreds of children over time and discovered something astonishing: children whose parents were professionals heard 30 million more words at home by their third birthdays than their counterparts whose parents were not professionals.
This got the attention of the early childhood world which exploded with curricula designed to teach children language. Children were called away from blocks and easels to sit at tables and trace letters. Dedicated parents bought into this promoting academics even with very young children in order to ensure their school success.
The reduction of time for play has now been found to be disastrous. The Perry Street Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study looked at differences in low-income children who experienced a play-based preschool rather than an academic-based preschool, with some significant findings.
At the age of 23, the two groups displayed striking differences. The play-based preschoolers had been less likely to need special education (6% versus 34%), had been less likely to commit felonies (9% versus 34%), and had been less likely to be fired from jobs (0% versus 27%). Those same preschoolers were also more likely to be community volunteers (43% versus 11%).
Play is the work of children, and its effects reach far into a child’s future. Play gives children practice in using their own skills and in learning how to frame life experiences. Kids at play use significantly more language, cognitive, social, and physical skills than kids sitting at tables doing worksheets. They learn the fine arts of problem solving and social negotiating.
I admit that I see how “cute” children are, but watching them at work, I see young human beings doing all they can to develop skills which will eventually provide our society a brighter future.