Let Them Be Little – Give Your Kids the Gifts of Boredom and Free Play


“The curriculum at our preschool is very academic oriented.”

“We teach them math, science, and we make sure they do these workbooks. You will be informed about their progress periodically. Before starting school, they will already be reading at a first-grade level,” the head of the learning center said.

She seemed so convinced that she was saying the right things. The workbooks were certainly impressive. And all I wanted to ask was…

“What about play time?”

Needless to say, I did not choose that particular care center for my little ones. The only reason we were choosing to put our kids in preschool is that it is hard for the kids to find friends to play with during the mornings. And it would definitely be hard to explore the intricacies of social interactions when you are busy practicing writing and reading at the age of 3.

The ideology of pushing kids to be academically gifted and “ahead of the curve” may surely be exciting to many parents—especially those who find it convenient for someone else to take care of the education. It makes total sense to me practically.

After all, most of my formative years were spent studying.

Indian parents love their kids to excel at everything they do. I remember doing pages and pages of writing letters and words. My mom used to get so horrified when I got 1 less than a 100 on tests. She was so used to seeing my A+s that she thought an A- just didn’t seem right anymore.

Coming from being first throughout school and then failing miserably at life during college gave me a fresh perspective. When I started working, I was the only person in the company I worked to get an incentive within the first year. Then, I chose to become a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer instead of using my hard earned Computer Engineering degree. 

It is certainly more important to teach kids about life than to just teach writing, math, and science…

…to explore their interests.

….to get them curious about people and things.

…to ask, “Why is the Moon following our car?”

…to wonder, “Why do clouds make a loud sound?”

…to figure out how to share with friends and when to stand up for themselves.

“I want my kids to have a fun childhood, but a lazy, quiet kind of fun that doesn’t cost anything.” 

That humorous one-liner by mom blogger, Ramblin’ Mama, made me think about the seriousness of this often quoted parent rant.

How many times have you said how happy your kid was with the box the toy came in rather than the toy itself? Childhood fun doesn’t really cost much at all, for it is not the natural instinct of a person to get bored. Leave a child alone long enough, and they will find a way to entertain themselves. Go ahead! Try it today.

We, the parents, just can’t help ourselves from buying them stuff (Easter, Diwali, Christmas, when they do exceptionally well at something). We take them on new adventures to exotic locations. We buy them new experiences and put them in camps and classes. We give them the tablet when they get bored or we want them occupied. We let them play video games when they complain that “all their friends” have them.

We are the ones teaching them to be dependent on stimulation.

We are unwittingly suppressing their natural desire to be inventive in the face of adversity.

It’s been a year since my son joined kindergarten, and he often complains, “When will I get time to just play by myself?” As much as he loves his extracurricular classes, it leaves him little time to himself. I feel sorry for him. I am sure to a 6-year-old, not getting time to play must be a great hardship!

I am happy he had a good 5 years of total play time at a preschool which had the perfect balance of free play and education by example instead of instruction. Also, I love how in the schools here, they teach by craft and imaginative play rather than just writing the same thing over and over again.

Homework is being built up, too. I often joke to my husband they are increasing the workload so we parents get used to the idea, too.

Life is only going to get tougher year by year. And they are only going to be little for so long.

Let the kids be little for as long as they can.

Let them explore their hidden passions. Give your kids the gift of boredom.