Too Fast, Too Soon: The Value of a Slow Childhood
by Kate Saffle
A year ago
“Mommy, when will I get my first cell phone?” my 8 year old daughter asked me the other day as we walked out of her ballet studio. “What makes you want one, sweetheart?” I ask, dipping a toe into understanding the heart behind her question. “Because other girls my age do, mom,” she replied with conviction.
When we imagine simplifying, many parents are on board with less stuff and simpler schedules. After all, we can easily set boundaries for how many toys our children own or request that they only play one sport per season. This is why, given the choice, most parents would rather grab the garbage bag than try to slow down childhood. It’s not that most parents don’t want to give their children a simpler, old-fashioned upbringing, filled with lazy afternoons climbing trees and riding bikes; it’s that we truly do not know how.
Between the onslaught of technology everywhere, 24 hour news channels, and the ways in which adult and teen culture trickle down to the youngest of ages, it feels like an overwhelming task to protect the innocence of childhood. As a mom to three, I wholeheartedly understand the feeling of helplessness and the perplexity of how it is possible that with all we’ve gained in modern society, what’s also at stake to be lost. In this article, we’ll look at three areas of concern that we’ll learn to simplify over the next several weeks: technology, adult information, and helicopter parenting. In addition, we’ll also find ways to slow childhood and embrace traditional ways of raising little ones.
Just twenty-five years ago, my non-school days were spent exploring the small farming town I called home. A motley crew of neighborhood kids and I ranged through corn fields, rode bikes down backroads, and waded in creeks, only returning home when the proverbial street light came on. Since cell phones weren’t widely accessible yet, our parents called us home by yelling loudly or sometimes we would use a store’s phone to let Mom know we had made it across town.
Now, the hardest part of parenting isn’t trying to get the kids to come back inside from a long day outdoors, but rather convincing them to go outside at all. Richard Louv, author of 2006’s Last Child in the Woods interviewed children for his book and quoted one fourth-grader as saying: “I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Thirteen years later, kids are able to take their connectivity with them everywhere, blurring the line between indoors and out.
One of the most pressing concerns of this parenting age is the prevalence of technology and programs geared toward children.
Here at Basal Baby, we desire to honor the essentials of childhood: open-ended play, access to nature play, a simple home environment, and a meaningful family life.
Excessive screen time interferes with the child’s ability to interact freely and meaningfully with his environment. Where once the television was the main source of screen time, now 42% of toddlers have their own device. (2017, NPR). Through simplicity parenting, we can cultivate a careful approach to technology, which acknowledges modern society and protects childhood.
Age Appropriate Information
Technology is not the only concern when protecting the innocence of childhood. We also must be aware of the information our children absorb from our conversations, the media, and from their peers. The internet has increased access to every crisis and political upheaval happening around the world. How do we know what to share and when? Our children are like little sponges, absorbing everything they hear and see around them; we must act as gatekeepers and monitor the information we share with them. As parents, we tap into our innate wisdom to know when to protect our children and when to support their growth through interacting with the larger world.
Finally, we’ll look into how parenting has evolved over the last fifteen years, and the ways in which our parenting choices impact childhood freedoms. As our world seems increasingly more dangerous, how do we keep our children safe and also create opportunities for exploration and independence? We’ll also look at healthy parent-child dynamics and parenting in connected and respectful ways.
Simplifying isn’t simply about what to get rid of, but also making thoughtful decisions about how to create a slow and intentional childhood and home. Over the next several weeks, we’ll dig deeper into why we should minimize screen time and how do so, the importance of filtering out the adult world in the child’s environment, and how to peacefully parent while creating safe boundaries for our children, all through the lens of Simplicity Parenting and essentialism.