Letting our kids run wild in the world can be a daunting idea. From scraped knees to traffic to tough social interactions with other kids, it can be tempting to stay by our kids’ side at all times and swoop in at the first sign of distress.
Yet today’s culture of constant supervision (and helicopter parenting) could actually hurt rather than help our kids, and it’s important to strike a balance. When parents are always present during play time, it can lead kids to think of their mom or dad as the leader of their play time. That doesn’t sound so bad, but when you don’t have an activity planned or you’re unable to play with your kids, they end up not knowing what to do, getting bored, and turning to easy diversions like video games while they wait for your lead.
According to blogger and author Lenore Skenazy, who wrote Free Range Kids, children need
So how can you loosen your reins — and get to the point where your kids can have free play?
1. Teach your kids boundaries when they are young
When your kids are young, teach them how to act appropriately and make good decisions in play. Help them try out the playground equipment and take risks while you’re around to supervise their first try, but gradually back off and let them do more on their own. Show them fun games they can play with their friends, like tag and basketball, and help them learn the rules that make these games run smoothly.
2. Start to walk away
Once your kids are old enough to lead their own play outside of the house, start to give them some independence. Let them play in the yard on the playset or with the basketball hoop while you’re inside or in the yard doing other things. When the time is right, let them venture outside your yard and out into the neighborhood. As they build skills and confidence, let them go further afield.
3. Take it to the playground
Bring your kids and their friends to the playground or park and let them run loose. You can go to a different area of the park and read a book or just relax while they figure out how to entertain themselves. Letting your kids learn how to be outside the perceived safety of the yard and make responsible decisions while playing is a skill they’ll need as they get older. Remember that the independence and confidence they gain when you’re out of sight and out of mind is crucial for their development.
By teaching your kids how to take risks but be safe, you’ll instill values that they’ll take with them when they play on their own. Plus, you’ll get a little free time from not keeping a constant eye on what your kids are doing!Tweet