Letter: Infants need the simple things of life

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Sir: Celia Dodd writes ('Much too busy too young', 6 October) on the proliferation of pre-school classes and activities in the UK. She is, I believe, entirely correct in her argument that these organised programmes are unnecessary, potentially detrimental to children's development and place further strain on parents' resources, both physically and financially. The urge to provide the best for our children should not lead us to believe we have to join every class and session available for our under-fives.

We must ask ourselves what it is that children really need and our answers must not be shaped by commercial pressures or the parental guilt-pack; do we really need the plethora of brilliantly coloured plastic toys to 'stimulate' our infants' development or are we merely persuaded by the rhetoric of toy manufacturers that we are depriving children of an essential experience if we do not provide them? Must we seek out every opportunity for 'creative' structured sessions rather than spend a quiet afternoon in the lounge doing the Independent's crossword while junior messes around with the sofa cushions?

Perhaps what our under-fives really need from us is nothing more or less than love and care and, sometimes, attention; freedom and space to be themselves. Provide opportunites and materials, yes, of course; but the neighbours' children, the park, a bunch of crisp autumn leaves and a pair of wellies may well be the most vital elements for 'stimulating and developing'.

Yours faithfully,




7 October