Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 6, 2024 ·  4 min read

We’re Stealing Time from Children

When full-day kindergarten began to sweep across districts, administrative staff would have held several meetings to discuss how these 5-year olds would be spending their extra hours at school. 

Ginny, a woman from Michigan, who is now a mother of 5, filled a seat in these meetings for her district while expecting her first baby. She pointed out in her article for 100 Hours Outside that there were no children at this meeting, and while the kindergarten teachers were persistent to suggest play time and rest, it was decided that this extra allotted time would be destined for academics. 

For most of us, public schooling was an experience that kept us asking “why do I have to learn this”. Even as adults we still don’t know why we were taught endless hours of trigonometry and were forced to read books we didn’t like, and yet we never really learned important life skills such as how to actually be an adult, love ourselves and learn how to prepare our income taxes. 

Do we really need to pass trigonometry and read To Kill A Mockingbird in order to be successful in adulthood? Or are there other things we could be learning and teaching in 13 years of primary and secondary school?

Once your child enters kindergarten, the years begin to fly by. Just think about your own life, and how quickly times goes once you’re stuck in the Monday to Friday rut. As adults, we have a hard time getting through the workday, imagine our kids – who just want to play and are at the perfect age to do so, and yet – they’re sitting for just about as long as we are.

Kids need more time. They need more time to learn about who they are, they should be able to explore and familiarize themselves with their surroundings. They need time to figure out who they are and how they can enjoy their own company. Time to think and daydream. 

Adult-directive activities take over much of our childhood. But they don’t have to, here’s how we can stop stealing time from kids.

Schedule Less: If your child is going straight from school to an extracurricular activity, they may be missing time to enjoy on their own being. Schedules can be stressful, and emphasizing time and being late can trigger anxiety. We don’t always have to be somewhere. Give your child the afternoon and evening and allow them to direct their own learning and being. Provide them with the tools that interest them, do they like taking pictures? Making crafts? Building things? Working with food? They have the rest of their adult life to be busy. Let them have fun now.

Encourage Play Time: Children aren’t just playing when they’re sitting down with toys. Almost all of the learning that goes on in the first years of life is in the context of exploration of the environment. Movement is essential for learning, kids need time to move and play throughout the day. Be an advocate for recess, and be a voice at your child’s school. Play is an approach to learning. It’s an engaged, fun, and curious way of discovering the world.

Say No To Homework: Homework, for some people, is seen as a chore that’s ‘wrecking kids’ or ‘killing parents’, while others think it is an essential part of a well-rounded education. If your child enjoys doing homework, let them. But why start the homework battle if you don’t need to. Seven hours of schooling a day is arguably enough, after a long day of school how much more can you really teach a frustrated and exhausted brain. Given what we know about kids’ living a sedentary lifestyle, of course, we should ditch homework for play.

Choose a Play Based School

See what is in your area as far as Montessori, Waldorf and forest schools go. Play-based preschool classrooms are set normally set up in sections, they typically have a kitchen area, a playhouse, a reading nook, a sensory table, a block area, etc. Class time is made up of free-choice centers, where children go to one of these areas in the classroom and “play”.

The main goal is to develop social and emotional skills and the teacher acts as a facilitator of learning rather than a lecturer of direct instruction. Progress for these students is monitored by their participation in hands-on activities and observational assessments, not by worksheets and drills.

Let kids be kids! 


  1. Let’s Stop Stealing Time from Children
  2. The growing argument against homework
  3. Should homework be banned?
  4. Taking Playtime Seriously
  5. What You Need to Know About Academic vs. Play Based Preschool