Ruth Wilson makes an interesting point, I think, when she considers the definition of ‘a child’ in the dictionary. She writes:
“A child, as defined by the dictionary (The American Heritage, fourth edition), is ‘a person between birth and puberty; an immature person.’ Anyone who actually spends time with children realizes that this definition of a child is fundamentally shallow and incomplete.
Children are busy people. They like to touch, taste, poke, dig, tear, shake, pull, push, and climb. They’re curious and eager to follow the path of curiosity. They’re observant and imaginative – often seeing patterns, shapes, and possibilities that adults rarely notice. Children are intense, sensitive, and highly competent. They’re also philosophical and spiritual.
Many adults overlook the uniqueness of childhood. They accept the dictionary definition of a child and view the years of childhood as a transition’ period – a time devoted to waiting for the child to mature into an adult. Adults with this view believe it’s their job to prepare children for what they will face in the future. Such adults fail to acknowledge the importance of valuing children for who they really are and the years of childhood as a special time in the lives of individuals.
We live in an achievement-oriented society with an intense focus on what should be accomplished for the sake of the future. This orientation – along with the mistaken idea of childhood – leads to the misguided introduction of formal academic instruction at an early age and high-stakes testing soon after children enter school. These well-intentioned initiatives place a great deal of stress on children and compromise their emotional well-being (Crain 2003). A number of studies indicate that children’s academic and social development is also compromised when they are subjected to pressures and expectations not appropriate to their age (Bredekamp and Copple 1997, Elkind 1987).” (pp.8-9)
Ref: Ruth Wilson (2012) Nature and Young Children: Encouraging creative play and learning in natural environments. Second edition. Routledge: London and New York.
Reference is to:
Bredekamp and Copple 1997, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from birth through age 8. 2nd edn. Washington, DC: NAEYC
Crain, W 2003 Reclaiming Childhood. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Elkind, D 1987 Miseducation. New York: Knopf