The other day my cat was stuck in a tree. He had no idea how to get out. How does that happen? He didn’t get to play in trees when he was a kitten.
We lived in coyote country. Not just a few howls at night, I mean where coyotes wandered through the property during the day. We didn’t want our cat to be “coyote bait.” So he didn’t go outside and play in trees, thus he didn’t learn the techniques needed to get down.
Now that a generation of students who went to the academic preschools are reaching college, we’re learning that they missed important adult skills because they didn’t get a chance to play or play was highly directed.
Erika Christakis and her husband Nicholas wrote in a December 2010 article for CNN Opinion that through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment. By allowing children to imagine walking in another person’s shoes, imaginative play also seeds the development of empathy, a key ingredient for intellectual and social-emotional success.
(Other thoughts on the topic: “Preschool Play Could Affect College Success.”)
In other words, children learn to think about others, a skill necessary for later success in college and in business.
We have become so obsessed with academic performance, from two years old to twenty years old, that we forget the important performance—relating to other people. If you don’t want your child to become stuck in the tree, allow plenty of time for imaginative free play.