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We certainly should work on having smarter kids. Particularly since it seems adults are going the other way.

After all, it is adults, often leaders, who refuse to acknowledge the evidence that stares them right in the face. They make decisions and policies that seem designed to hurt, rather than help.

Did you think I was referring to climate change? Or energy policies?

I’m actually referring to education and how our policy makers seem to make so many brainless decisions.



Despite a truckload of evidence that proves forcing early learning on children can be detrimental, education policy makers just keep heaping on the pressure at younger and younger ages.

Their decisions and demands are stealing play from children and robbing them of their childhoods.


smarter kids picture


The oldest Goddess had to take a test to determine her learning level when she started kindergarten this year.

The Best Start Kindergarten Assessment began in all government schools in New South Wales, Australia, in 2010. This mandatory test is designed to determine which children need extra help.

What it actually does is put pressure on parents, preschools and daycare centres to make these little people ‘school ready’. It creates an atmosphere of competition that allows little time for children to just be kids.

There is plenty of evidence to show the detrimental cognitive and psychological effects of children missing free time for unstructured play, creative pursuits and daydreaming.

Schools were once the place where you would go to learn to read and write. Now, there is an expectation that you can already do this to some extent before you even get there.

Education is not a race.

Professor David Elkind




Kindergarten literally means ‘garden for the children’.

This term was coined by German education advisor Friedrich Frobel in 1840. It reflected his belief that children should be nurtured and nourished ‘like pants in a garden’.

It is used worldwide today to describe either preschool or the start of primary school (depending on the country and state).

Now, halfway through the year, tests are the norm for the Goddess. She participates in a regular spelling exam.

I recently visited her classroom as part of the school’s open day. I was all at once awed and a little dismayed by what I saw.

An oversized, internet-ready screen replaced the giant blackboard that was traditionally the centrepiece of any classroom.  This was impressive and I appreciate the practicality of it. It did make me feel a little nostalgic for simpler days.

The walls were decorated with pictures you would expect to see in any kindergarten room. The tables told another story.

Instead of the handful of worksheets and mountains of drawings that used to represent kindergarten life, there were mountains of worksheets, a spelling book, a writing book and a couple of drawings.

Numerous studies have shown that early formal learning may initially show good results, but these tend to even out within a few years. In fact, it does not make smarter kids.

More alarming, there is a clear link between increased indicators of stress and mental health problems and lack of play opportunities for children during the second half of the 20th century, according to a University of Cambridge report, School starting age: the evidence.

Some research suggests formal education for children under the age of seven can even lead to anti-social behaviour as they grow older.




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So, little Jimmy can read, write and calculate all by the time he’s turned six. But at what cost? Those temporary bragging rights won’t mean a thing if he’s struggling when he’s 12. Perhaps he’s lost interest and is tired of learning overload. What if the stress of school is making him depressed? Maybe he is acting in an anti-social way because he didn’t get the chance to learn important social skills in kindergarten. He was too busy writing books and filling in numeracy worksheets.

Some would argue that little Jimmy learned the social skills while at daycare or preschool. Others claim these early lessons don’t stick without the time and space to reinforce them as the children begin to grow out of the self-centred stage, typical of toddlers and preschoolers. Most children are still quite self-centred at the age of five (the average age for starting kindergarten in Australia).

Australia has one of the youngest school starting ages in the world.

Depending on what month a child is born, he or she can start school as early as four years old.

Children in Finland, Shanghai and Singapore do not start formal school until they are seven.

It is interesting to note that children from these countries have some of the best academic standards in the world. Clearly, starting formal education early does not make smarter kids.




More than 40 years ago the German government-commissioned research which showed the kindergarten graduates less advanced in reading and mathematics by grade four came from academic-based kindergartens, rather than play based kindergartens. Their social and emotional skills also suffered.

Forcing too much material onto the developing minds of young children may inadvertently push children into looking like they have ADHD when they might not, according to a professor at Vanderbilt University.

In his book, The Intuitive Parent: Why the Best Thing for Your Child is You, Stephan Camarata, Professor of Psychiatry, writes about the importance of intuitive play on shaping the brain and developing reasoning ability and problem-solving.

Professor Camarata refers to research that shows “play based interactive learning is a key foundation for language development and many other aspects of reasoning and social skills.”

It also plays a vital role in shaping foundations for a child’s understanding of science, maths and reading.

Professor Camarata claims a large percentage of college students in the United States have a “dearth of thinking ability”. He says this can be linked to early education and “rote learning way of teaching preschoolers and even toddlers”.

The pressure on daycare centres and preschools, not to mention parents, to make kids ‘school ready’, makes this extra alarming.

Every moment of a child’s day must be documented by daycare and preschool staff to show how each activity can be related to learning. More than one has lamented the fact that less creative and play activities are offered as more attention is focused on numbers and letters.




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No point in blaming the teachers for creating an atmosphere of information overload rather than a garden for children.

They have a curriculum they must follow. Many have expressed dismay at the push for early learning and lack of opportunity to offer more artistic pursuits and nature experiences for their charges.

What you CAN do is spend time playing with them. Don’t buy into the stress of competing for results during the early years of school.

Professor Camarata recommends using intuitive parenting to help children excel.

If daycare is a must because of work commitments, consider centres that have a Montessori approach to teaching. This teaching style seeks to develop natural interests and activities rather than use formal teaching methods.

Try to avoid overloading children’s free time with activities that do not encourage imaginative play and creativity. These are the cornerstones of developing resilient, innovative thinkers who excel at reasoning and problem-solving.

Wishing you and your children lots of play time and a gleeful week, Tamuria.













  • Thanks for this well-researched information Tamuria. I am writing my book Less is More and I am so aware of how we are on information overload and so often over-stimulated. Many of my clients’ children are sensitive and I really agree we need more opportunity to be creative, have fun and learn to socialize with those we agree with and those we don’t. Love this! My granddaughter’s life is better because of your weekly blog!

    • What a truly lovely thing to say, Candess, in regards to your granddaughter and this blog. Thank you. I find it hard to understand how leaders can so easily ignore the evidence, to our detriment. Kids really do need time to just be kids. I’m looking forward to reading your book when it’s done.

  • This is a drum that needs to be beaten a lot, Tami! Oh, what children lose by being so structured, so young. One thing we know for sure is that unstructured play does allow imaginations to soar. And, every bit as importantly, it causes kids to create their own rules, which are amazingly fair. Inherently, they know.
    Thank you for this!

    • Susan, I agree. This needs to be talked about more, especially as the decision makers are ignoring the evidence. I am so grateful I had time to enjoy my childhood and not be pushed too young.I sometimes feel a little sick for the Goddesses.

  • I totally agree with you. Forcing children to learn early on is not a pattern of stress learning that they can keep up with. You would get fed up too if your young life was only about learning to score high on tests and then your whole adult life being dependent on the results of those tests. I think that is a contributing factor why teens seek out daredevil activities because they’ve never had the opportunity to really play. This is excellent information for parents and I hope it reaches the widest audience possible.

    • You make such as good point about teens, Joyce. It certainly makes sense. We need to let those little developing minds have some freedom to move in their own directions.

  • I love this. Kora went to a leadership camp this summer. They were encouraged to yell and make noise and she came back so impressed. She said that she wished all school was like that. I think that it encouraged them to express themselves. I also wonder if it might be a little too difficult to have this kind of a learning experience for kids with control problems? It was good for the kids who were more mature and knew boundaries.

    • The camp sounds wonderful, Cathy. I think you can still have play based learning within boundaries to ensure all kids stay safe and respectful. The yelling to express themselves is probably better suited to older age groups.

  • Having been introduced to both the Montessori philosophy and also the Waldorf philosophy of childhood development, I would say the current educational systems are dooming children with all this focus on learning before the age of 7.

    The first life. cycle, 0-7, is the moon cycle and is about learning through play and witnessing the world around them. In the Waldorf educational system each child is an individual and is encouraged based on their temperament type and their interest. Stimulating imagination through creative play is the norm. Even though I was reading from age 4, I now know this is NOT the best for children.

    Too often kids are encouraged to be ‘little geniuses’ before they can even walk and talk. And don’t get me started with the detriment iPads and computer learning is for kids! I am worried we will see the toll this has taken in the near future, with a generation who do not even know how to write or print their own names! Great topic Tami and thanks for all the research and for being a parent and grandparent who has and is encouraging lots of playtime and imagination stimulating in your kids and grandkids!

    • I truly love Montessori learning Beverley and would have enrolled by owns kids in a Montessori school if there had been one in the area. I have read about the Waldorf philosophy and it also sounds like a wonderful approach to educating.I really don’t understand what all the rush is about, particularly as the research shows it ultimately has a detrimental effect on learning. Childhood is such a short period of life and once it’s gone it’s gone. We should let kids be kids as long as possible without bombarding their brains with too much information.

  • What a wonderful post. I am dismayed to hear of the current ‘curriculum ‘ for kindergarten. Play is essential. Less structure. More fun. I started school almost a year late because of where my birthday fell on the calendar (one month too late according to the current rules) I feel this was a huge advantage to me. Sorry to hear that Australia lets children start so early

    • Play really is an essential part of learning Alene and our kids are being robbed of that precious time because policy makers are putting so many demands on teachers. You were fortunate to start a year later.

  • I am still surprised at the hoops parents these days have their children jumping through and the activity-filled schedule they have to keep, rather than just letting them be and spending time creating and imagining.

    BTW, I read someplace that, these days, kindergarten is a equivalent to what first grade was many years ago.

    • I agree, Rachel. I understand it is tough when both parents work and they need to have their kids cared for. There is also so much pressure on them to make their kids perform – academically and in sports. Such a shame as it is the kids who ultimately pay the price.

  • Yes, even in the Philippines, I have seen that the children are stressed. After school, they take tutorial lessons because on their own, and no parents to supervise, the children will have a difficulty doing their homework as they are given advance lessons for their age.

    • It is quite horrifying how much stress is heaped on children these days, Lorii. Then the adults scratch their heads and wonder why so many teens are struggling with stress, depression and behaviour issues.

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