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10 September 2017 Update









Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students | A Member of the Tutors' Association



Please see the new Section at the end of this Post ~

Excerpts of Studies on Welfare of Children and Youngsters









Those children who are to attend pre-school, Montessori, play groups, or first and second year in junior school, have all arrived by now.





PRIMARILY, young children need to learn how to listen carefully and speak with confidence; to learn to be social creatures; to develop the skills that help them engage as part of any social group.  They need to learn co-operation, give and take, taking turns, sharing, showing consideration for others, self-reliance, self-confidence, self-motivation, and Grace and Courtesy.  They also learn to develop their gross and fine motor skills.  Most of these skills are learnt through play - Play is Learning!






EVERY YOUNG CHILD should feel free to learn how to express him or herself physically, and not feel like a ‘loser’ because he / she cannot manage a gross motor skill during a game or other activity.  For a variety of reasons, some children are physically less well co-ordinated than others in the 2.5-4 years age group, and into later years.



Getting the hang of running, chasing, skipping, hoola hooping, roller skating, scootering, tricycling, bicycling with training wheels, and later without, all require great concentration and application.  Many spills and grazes are endured before any degree of mastery is gained.


INDEED, into adulthood, some of us are great dancers or footballers; most of us are not!



DURING COMPETITIVE PHYSICAL GAMES, in early childhood education settings,  the SAME children shall usually LOSE, and the SAME children will usually WIN.  It is disturbing to consider some  children may come to believe they are almost ALWAYS GOING TO BE 'LOSERS', and that others may come to believe they are MOST LIKELY TO BE 'WINNERS’ before they reach the age of four. 


*   What kind of thoughts about themselves regularly go through the minds of those young children who more usually lose in physical games and activities?


*  What constant, possibly negative, comparisons might be drawn by these young children between themselves, their siblings, and their classmates? 


*   What attitudes do they develop towards themselves, and towards their classmates, and how do these affect the class dynamic?


Games, like "Simon Says" or "Statues", would work for most children, because no-one NEEDS be knocked out just because he or she makes a mistake.  The whole group could carry on, and the fun would be in the actions set by the teacher, the sillier the better.



A RELUCTANCE to take part in group games is a common  response of children who were usually knocked out of competitive games very early, and who have come to feel that games are just NOT FOR THEM. 



STOPPING JOINING IN this group play, or playing because they  MUST  and only going ‘through the motions’, would be a significant loss for a child.   SUCH A CHILD may start feeling isolated, self-conscious, and different to classmates.   HE OR SHE IS unlikely to say why he / she no longer wishes to play games and, SADLY, can come to be seen as 'odd' by some.



ALSO, if not joining in fully in group games, children would be losing an important element of DAILY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY;  part of their necessary routine exercise.



MUCH MORE IMPORTANT, however, is losing this crucial time in which young children learn to stretch physical capabilities, become comfortable with their bodies, and are confident enough to try something new, without self-censorship.






Regular Daily Exercise is a Requirement for All Children





Regular and frequent break times in the School playground must be part of every day's schedule.  Many studies show that children are not getting sufficient exercise, and need around three hours free play including lots of running, every day.  Boys, in particular, have difficulty sitting still in class, and expecting children to sit for up to four hours at a table is unreasonable, as that is not how they were designed!  


Please see the Section at the end of this Post, Excerpts of Studies on Welfare of Children and Youngsters to get an idea of the negative consequences of insufficient exercise for children.




I SUGGEST this state of mind may carry negative, long-term, confidence issues.  As these children start hitting 08+ years of age, THEIR VIEWS OF THEMSELVES both mental and physical, MAY LEAD TO self-imposed isolation, depression, eating disorders, and self-harm.



I DO NOT SUBSCRIBE to the idea that competition is good or necessary for young children, as that is how the World works, and they need to learn about being winners for their future education and job prospects.  The idea of junior schools being production lines for future employees died in the mid-20th Century.



CHILDHOOD is when we dream, day-dream, imagine. HOW does one choose a champion day-dreamer?!

Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci were always in trouble at school for staring out the window!






WHEN THE MIND IS AT ITS MOST PLASTIC, and wide-open to ideas; young children may lose a glorious opportunity for self-exploration, and discovery of the big, exciting, World.


WE HEAR frequently of the need for future leaders in all walks of life; and there are seminars on 'How to be a Leader' being held every day, somewhere.  Leadership is NOT about playing games with other people's jobs.


TRUE LEADERSHIP comes from having had mind-space to develop ideas ~ to reject them ~ and to start again. 

That kind of wide-open thinking, at its best, starts very young. 


BUT IT CAN ONLY HAPPEN if young children are allowed to be themselves, and NOT pressurised into trying to perform 'well' in activities for which they are not suited.


We must ALWAYS encourage our children to enjoy all kinds of activities, sharing the joy with others, without having to be 'good' at them.


I WAS AN ENTHUSIASTIC, hard-working, hockey player in school.  I loved it.  I started out on the 'B' Team, and slid to the 'E' Team, quite quickly.  I still loved hockey, I just wasn't much good at it!






Sharing experiences of discovery, comparing opinions, and bringing the sensations home to draw and colour would be a joy, and also a way for children to express themselves without an arena of competition or comparison.  Children need to know there are forums in which they can express themselves, without the worry of competition or comparison.



Please see my following Posts for simple, inexpensive, ways to engage a child or youngster, helping encourage self-motivated projects and developing self-confidence and self-reliance CHILDREN'S CITY LIFE, NATURE in the CITY, and A YOUNGSTER'S OWN AUTUMN / WINTER PROJECT.


Simply winning is not the long game!



Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien


I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.


Please see my website, www.icobrien.com, "Education Matters", for my newest Posts, and for updates on previously Posted articles on all matter education.

I welcome all comments, positive or negative. Please let me know if you find any errors in this Post.


Email iseultccobrien@gmail.com





If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.  


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!



1 comment

Guidance Counsellor at Castleknock Community College

An interesting read. It's heart breaking for parents to learn that their little one's confidence is knocked by competition. This naturally leads one to molly coddle and protect their child from the cruelty of competition and potentially being a loser. This too is wrong and harmful for a child's development. Children need to learn their strengths, weaknesses and how to fai


Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students in Dublin City

Hi Oonagh. Thank you for your comment. 2.5 to 4 years children in Montessori and other well-regulated Early Childhood Education centres, learn through their mistakes as they work diligently and alone, with properly designed materials. That is a good and positive way to learn. Indeed, the child teaches him or herself, through working out how to use materials, and that inc


Excerpts of Studies on Welfare of Children and Youngsters




Excerpts of Studies and Pieces follow from the following contributors:

Bill Murphy Jr, of TheMid.com; 

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland; 

Belinda Luscombe in Time Magazine; 

Angela Hanscom, a Paediatric Occupational Therapist; 

Plus, a disturbing  piece on 'Expanding the Definition of ADHD'.






According to Bill Murphy Jr, of TheMid.com, students, and especially boys, need hours of physical activity every day; and they do not get enough because their schools will not let them.


Apart from insufficient teacher numbers to supervise morning and afternoon breaks, many activities which were allowed previously, like running and playing chasing in the yard, are now prohibited because of insurance cover worries.


Bill Murphy Jr outlined the following research results.


 1.     We overprotect children and youngsters, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers - which ultimately increases their likelihood of real negative health issues.


 2.    We inhibit children's academic growth (especially among boys), because the lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.


 3.     When they fail to conform quietly to this low-energy paradigm, we over-diagnose or even punish kids for reacting the way they are naturally built to react.


Most boys appear to be in a constant state of motion: running, jumping, fighting, playing, pushing, getting hurt - maybe getting upset - and getting right back into the physical action.


Except when at school, where they are required to sit still for long periods of time in the classroom.  When they fail to stay still, how are they punished?  SADLY, OFTEN, by being denied going out to the yard for their next break, and having to sit at their desks, while their classmates are out in the air.  (My comment, ICOB.)





Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recently tried to document whether boys actually achieve less in school when they are restricted from running around and being physically active.



They studied 153 children, aged 6 to 8, and tracked how much physical activity and sedentary time they had during the day.  According to a report by Belinda Luscombe in Timethe less "moderate to vigorous physical activity" the boys had each day, the harder it was for them to develop good reading skills.


The more time children ... spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years.  [It] also had a negative impact on their ability to do maths.



The results did not apply to girls, for which there are a few possible explanations.  It may be that girls have physiological differences, or maybe they were just as eager to move around as the boys, but they were better able to set aside that disappointment, and concentrate.



This concern is not confined to poorer academic achievement.  Many observers and researchers now say limited physical activity leads to real physical and mental harm in children and youngsters, even in the short term, before they have grown up.






Angela Hanscom, a paediatric occupational therapist, interviewed young children to ask them what recess and play are like in the second decade of the 21st century. They answered as follows.


"We have monkey bars, but we aren't allowed to go upside down on them.  They think we are going to hurt ourselves.  I think I'm old enough to try going upside down."


"We have woods, but can't go anywhere near them. It's too dangerous."


"When it snows, we can't touch it with our foot, or we have to stand by the teacher for the rest of recess."


Restricting children’s movement like this leads them to increased anger and frustration, less ability to regulate emotions, and higher aggressiveness, during the limited time periods in which they are allowed to play.   Angela Hanscom writes "Elementary children need at least three hours of active free play a day to maintain good health and wellness.  Currently, they are only getting a fraction".







In the United States, ADHD diagnoses in children and youngsters are more likely now than they were in years past, but one may not realise that the number of diagnoses is still rising, and at an alarming rate.  In 2003, for example, it was diagnosed in about 7.8 per cent of youngsters, but that rose to 9.5 per cent in 2007, and 11 per cent in 2011.  

That is a 40 per cent increase in eight years.


There are a couple of reasons to explain this dramatic increase in diagnoses. 

The definition of ADHD has been changed to make it more expansive.  

Many critics argue it is also because of the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, since the leading treatment for ADHD is a prescription medication.



Angela Hanscom, in a separate article, says it is also because we are forcing children and youngsters to sit still longer, and they are simply reacting as nature intended.


"Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors," she writes.  "Let’s face it: children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem."


Angela Hanscom reminds us of the stakes, "In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention.  In order for them to pay attention, we need to let them move".


It is much easier to control a classroom in which the children have to sit quietly, than one where a little bit of managed chaos is allowed.   Nobody judges teachers on whether or not they gave their students sufficient break times during the day.  Teachers are always conscious of the overly protective parents who can make trouble if one of their children falls in the school yard (My comment, ICOB).


When young students get enough time to blow off steam and become relaxed, and when they return to the classroom, students are "less fidgety and more focused," one teacher said.  They "listen more attentively, follow directions, and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything".