Age Appropriate

One size does not fit all

The philosophy of age appropriate development owes a lot to Jean Piaget. He, among many others, pointed out that childhood learning and growth takes place through a process. One identifiable stage after another. These stages overlapped and could start and end at different ages for different kids. The constant is that for the majority of children they do proceed in the same order. For a brief description of Genetic Epistemology click here.

Here’s a link to Gary Allen’s article on the relationship of street soccer and age appropriate play.

At the Burke Athletic Club we take age appropriate soccer, matches and practices, very seriously. We have set out guidelines that enhance the childrens opportunities to learn. We have taken many of the ideas from the US Youth Soccer’s National Youth License and incorporated them into the clubs policies making adjustments that suit our specific situation. This is an ongoing process. The Baffled Parents Guide to Great Soccer Drills by Tom Fleck and Ron Quinn is US Youth Soccer’s textbook for the National Youth License. This book is a great guide to age appropriate soccer education.

Reality on the Ground

Every coach, and parent, has to deal with the reality that their ’Team’ is made up of individuals and each one is at a different place in these stages. There are several factors that influence these differences. Among them are the birthdate. A child born in September 2000 is almost a year older then one born in August 2001. That’s a hugh difference when you’re a u-young. Birth order may play a role. Children with older siblings may display more advanced development then the older ones or single children. They may grow up in a more socialized setting and may suffer less from the ’shy’s.’ Environment influences development. Children grow up in different settings, with different opportunites and that also plays a role. (Review Don Lucia’s talk.)

"Never make predictions, especially about the future."
Casey Stengel

But no matter the early, u-young development, puberty changes everything. The eight year old superstar leading scorer becomes the sixteen year old IB science whiz that no longer has time for the game. The ten year old newbie slow poke becomes the starting goalkeeper on her high school team. There is no way to predict the future for any child. 

Expert Advice - Greg Uba, Early Childhood Educator

Age Appropriate Material and Play

What material, (Activity) is age-appropriate for a child is really defined by each individual child. If the child is interested in it and can use it in a challenging way, then it’s age-appropriate. The role of the teacher or the parent is to help the child decide what they’re interested in. Materials, (Activities) that are fascinating to them or that are challenging are age-appropriate. It’s hard to say that at a certain age, this is the specific right material to have...

Age-appropriate materials, learning tools (and activities) don’t have to be expensive... Stores market items as “educational toys” in order to sell you some computer or technical stuff. It’s better to look at toys because of their “play” value – not educational value. “Play” value gives you more bang for your buck.

When kids play with age appropriate toys, they can get support for all of their intelligences. Good materials give kids multiple ways of learning. For example, blocks can teach geometry, math, counting, and more. The learning experience can expand over time as the child grows and develops so that the toy alone doesn’t determine where the learning stops.

It’s critical to choose open-ended play materials because then the children are not looking for the toy to provide entertainment. The more the toy defines the play, the less the child’s imagination, takes you to YouTube, comes into play. With open-ended materials, kids have a greater sense of ownership and responsibility because they have helped to develop the toy, (The game.)

Leave those kids alone - The idea that adults should be playing with their kids is a modern invention -- and not necessarily a good one. By Christopher Shea | July 15, 2007 - The Boston Globe.

From Publishers Weekly
Throughout American history, argues Brown University historian Chudacoff (The Age of the Bachelor), parents have sought to control their children’s games and toys, but kids have been determined to set the terms of their play. In the colonial era, children typically played with improvised toys, and parents tried to prevent play from degenerating into idleness, insisting that games must serve God or family. In the 19th century, consumer culture intersected with a new conception of childhood as a distinct, adorable life stage to be cherished, while children increasingly played with toys that brought them into contact with the market. By the 20th century, adults, influenced in part by the new field of child psychology, focused on educational toys and directed kids off the streets and into playgrounds, where they could be carefully supervised. The tension between parental prerogatives and children’s autonomy manifests itself still, says Chudacoff: parents try to keep children indoors for fear of dangers lurking outside, but children take new kinds of risks playing in cyberspace. While a bit dry and broad, Chudacoff’s work gives historical depth to debates that continue to rage over what constitutes appropriate child’s play. 22 illus. (Aug.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this fascinating look at the importance of letting kids be kids, Elkind argues that "Play is being silenced." According to Elkind, a child psychologist and author of All Grown Up and No Place to Go, important, unstructured play is too often replaced in modern times by organized activities, academics or passive leisure activities such as watching television and playing video games. Elkind explains how even toys have changed: "toys once served to socialize children into social roles, vocations, and academic tool skills. Today, they are more likely to encourage brand loyalties, fashion consciousness, and group think." Elkind acknowledges that technology has its place in the classroom, but debunks computer programs marketed toward babies and preschoolers whose young brains are not yet able to fully comprehend two-dimensional representations. "Parent peer pressure" is often to blame, causing parents to engage in "hyperparenting, overprotection, and overprogramming." Media-spread fears about everything from kidnapping and molestation to school shootings and SIDS can cause parents to forget that "children can play safely without adult organization; they have done so as long as people have been on earth." With clarity and insight, Elkind calls for society to bring back long recesses, encourage imagination and let children develop their minds at a natural pace. (Jan.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Crain, a developmental psychologist, laments the ceaseless schedule of activities for most American children that leaves them little time and energy for the typical childhood pursuits of a less restless and ambitious age. Crain worries that by focusing so much on preparing children for a competitive future, we are stunting their growth and neglecting their here-and-now needs and desires. He specifically examines current trends, from emphasis on standardized tests to the birth-to-three early-development movement, and contrasts them with the child-centered philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, and David Elkind. He advocates a more natural learning rhythm and an environment that takes advantage of children’s own natural curiosity, with adults providing an "unobtrusive presence." Crain offers advice, based on research and interviews with parents and children, on how parents and educators can provide a more child-centered model for education that takes cues from the children themselves and respects their efforts to learn on their own. A thoughtful and valuable resource for parents and teachers looking for alternative approaches to education. Vanessa Bush Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly
Authors and child psychologists Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff and Eyer join together to prove that training preschoolers with flash cards and attempting to hurry intellectual development doesn’t pay off. In fact, the authors claim, kids who are pressured early on to join the academic rat race don’t fair any better than children who are allowed to take their time. Alarmed by the current trend toward creating baby Einsteins, Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff urge parents to step back and practice the "Three R’s: Reflect, Resist, and Recenter." Instead of pushing preschoolers into academically oriented programs that focus on early achievement, they suggest that children learn best through simple playtime, which enhances problem solving skills, attention span, social development and creativity. "Play is to early childhood as gas is to a car," say Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff, explaining that reciting and memorizing will produce "trained seals" rather than creative thinkers. Creativity and independent thinking, they argue, are true 21st-century skills; IQ and other test scores provide a narrow view of intelligence. The authors walk parents through much of the recent research on the way children learn, debunking such myths as the Mozart effect, and pointing out that much learning unravels naturally, programmed through centuries of evolution. Although the research-laden text is sometimes dense, parents will find a valuable message if they stick with the program, ultimately relieving themselves and their offspring of stress and creating a more balanced life.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Every child knows what it means to play, but the rest of us can merely speculate. Is it a kind of adaptation, teaching us skills, inducting us into certain communities? Is it power, pursued in games of prowess? Fate, deployed in games of chance? Daydreaming, enacted in art? Or is it just frivolity? Brian Sutton-Smith, a leading proponent of play theory, considers each possibility as it has been proposed, elaborated, and debated in disciplines from biology, psychology, and education to metaphysics, mathematics, and sociology.