'Pushy parents don't impress us. They just make us feel sorry for their kids.'

“And 26 plus five is?”

I was playing minigolf with my kids the other day and I couldn’t help overhearing the dad behind me. He was there with his two little boys, about five or six years old. He clearly saw the minigolf game as a learning experience. He was making the boys add up their scores as they went along. In fact, his entire conversation with them was more like a test of their knowledge than a casual chat.

His voice was a little bit louder than it needed to be. Did he want me to hear him asking his kids maths questions? Did he want me to be impressed with how good their maths was? Their maths was good. But rather than being impressed, I felt a bit sorry for them.

Couldn’t he just let them focus on hitting their golf balls through the windmill? That’s tough enough.

I’ve seen it before. Parents in playgrounds, determined that their kids shouldn’t waste a second that could be spent learning.

I remember a toddler clambering to the top of a climbing frame and his mum standing in front, waving her arms and desperately trying to get him to sing along with her: “ABCDEFG…”

Come on. Give the kid a break. He’s made it all the way to the top of the climbing frame. Just let him enjoy the view.

Playgrounds. The best. Photo via iStock.

I remember another tiny tot in a different playground, her chubby little hands grasping at plastic shapes and trying to manoeuvre them around.

"Which one is the square?" her mother asked. "You know what a square looks like. No, not that. That's a triangle. The square. The one with four sides. That's it. Good girl."

The mother looked at me for approval. Hmmm...

Look. I think it's fantastic that all these parents are so involved with their kids. It's great that they're taking them out places and talking to them so much. I know there are some kids who start school without knowing their alphabet or their shapes or their numbers. Clearly these kids won't be among them. They'll have a good head start over some of their classmates.


But I'm sure these parents are already spending quiet times at home looking at books with their kids and pointing out shapes and singing the alphabet song. This is the playground. Sometimes play should just be about play.

What shape is the window? Come on, you know it... Photo via iStock.

Playgrounds are exciting. Playgrounds are about climbing and exploring and pretending. For kids, they're like a fairground and a castle, rolled into one. They don't need to be a classroom, too.

The fact is, kids learn from just simply playing. Free play helps their brains grow. Researchers are now suggesting that time in the playground may be more important to brain development than time in the classroom.

I'd never say anything to those parents, because it's totally their business how they bring up their children. But I wish, for their kids' sake, they'd ease up a bit. I wish they'd use that time they have with their kids to just play with them, however they want to play, and enjoy their company.

Maybe you want your kid to be a neurosurgeon or a corporate lawyer. But surely you also want your kid to look back on their childhood, and think about how their mum used to take them to the playground and pretend they were flying together in a rocket to the moon, or how their dad used to take them to mini-golf and stand with his big feet behind the hole, to make sure their ball would always go in.

Sometimes, just having fun is enough.

Do your kids spend much time just playing?