A few weeks ago I asked the following question as a poll on Facebook.
True or False: It is best to keep toddlers and preschoolers busy so they stay out of trouble.
While it wasn’t my ambition to create a tricky question, it was my hope that the question would cause each reader to stop and think. And, I hope that it will start a constructive dialogue as well.
In the past few years, I have had a few mommas tell me that they try to pack each day full of activities. This means most days are filled with visits to the park, children’s museums, libraries, and stores. They feel that their children do best when they are constantly on the move.
It is conversations like these that led me to take the above poll on Facebook. Is constant activity good for children? I think the answer to this question depends on which side of the “ditch” you live.
In almost 14 years of parenting, I have made “Keep it Between the Ditches” one of my mottos. It means not swinging too far to the left or right side, but keeping my parenting centralized. By veering too far to one side or the other, I am not developing a solid foundation in my children of them learning to Love God and Love Others.
Using this question as our base, what would the two “ditches” look like?
Left Ditch – Constantly on the Move
In my experience, I am unable to train to the full extent when we are constantly on the move.
As I have shared several times in the Parenting Video Playlist, discipline must happen at home before it can occur in public. Walmart is a horrible place to train a child to stop screaming. The library won’t provide a private place to teach a child to share. A car seat will keep the child restrained, but will not teach the child self-control.
2. Heart Training
I found in the toddler and preschooler years, when our calendar was overflowing I resorted to “band-aid” parenting. I used discipline that was an immediate fix, but discipline that didn’t train the heart to yield.
3. Child Play
Our children have very few years to be a child. To play with blocks, play dough, and have books read to them. This type of play is critical for development and can not happen with the child continually being placed in and taken out of a car seat.
God is also teaching me the importance of Sabbath. My children need to see me rest and need to learn to rest.
Right Ditch – No Structure
Children crave structure. Free play, free rein is a recipe for disaster.
Structure also allows for teachable moments because the adult is managing the child’s day instead of the child being in control.
Because of this, I suggest a flexible routine throughout the day. Not a rigid schedule, but a guide to help children have predictability in their day. Here are a few ways to provide structure.
Instead of free play with toys, I propose that children have access to a few toys at a time. This aids in teaching stick-ti-itiveness and minimizes the amount of toys that need to be picked up before more can be gotten out.
2. Nap and Bedtime
You’ve heard it preached before: routine before sleep time is so important. Consistent structure around sleep time creates expectations for the child. The child learns that she can’t ask for 3 more books or 7 more drinks of water.
3. Independent Play
Structure allows time for independent play giving the mom time to do “mom-chores.” It also builds the child’s imagination.
4. Consistent Discipline
When we are consistent in training, structure is provided. The child feel safe when they know what to expect. Check out the Parenting Video Playlist to glean some practical tips to teach obedience and respect.
Keep it Between the Ditches
This leads us to ask the questions again.
Is constant activity good for children?
I believe the answer is that structured activity is important for children, while busy activity is detrimental.
Remember that the road between the ditches is wide. It is not a single line. There are days when I curve to the right and other days that I move the opposite direction. But the fact is that I am still on the road. It is when we get caught in a ditch that we need to be concerned.
There will be days when several appointments fill the hours. “Bandaid discipline” is the only way to survive. But then unfilled days will provide for opportunity to focus on immediate obedience, potty training, and training our children to cook a meal. It is all about balance.
So, are you in the ditch or on the road?
A few weeks ago, we asked in the ABCJLM Facebook Group for your favorite verses to pray over your children. With the help of Jennifer to compile the verses and Becky to create a beautiful printable, blog subscribers can now print for themselves a list of 31 Bible Verses to Pray. Place above your child’s changing table or their bed to pray at night. Place in your prayer journal or pray with your husband. So many possibilities!
Also available to print is the Easter Unit Study! You will love these activities and ideas to teach your children about the events of Easter.
If you are an Our Out-of-Sync Life blog subscriber, scroll to the bottom of your email or RSS feed for the link to the free 31 Bible Verses and Easter Unit (click on the image for Free Printables). If not, click to become a subscriber.
If you prefer not to subscribe or would like to use the Easter Unit in a classroom setting, you can purchase on the Easter Unit and Licenses at www.ABCJesusLovesMe.com/order.