How much free, unstructured time does your child have each day? How much free, unstructured time with friends?
Children stay pretty busy. When they’re at home, we spend a lot of time directing them. It’s time for this... time for that. Then it’s off to school. After school, it’s off to enrichment classes. When you think about it, that’s a lot of adult direction!
Hopefully, sprinkled in there somewhere, your children have time for self-directed play with open-ended activities that encourage creative thinking and making independent choices. Hopefully, they have time for trial and error with friends and their toys, so they can learn to figure things out for themselves and with their peers.
Children won’t tell you that they need and enjoy that time, but if you watch, you’ll know, because you will see more curiosity and concentration in their play. When we are naturally curious about something, we get more out of it.
One perfect time of day for children to experience open-ended, unstructured, independent and social play all at the same time is playground time. It’s a terrific time for children to release their energy, to work their muscles, to play with friends and to simple be FREE!
And then we go and ruin it by interfering. “Do NOT swing on your belly.” “Ah, ah, ah! Do NOT climb up that slide.”•
Whaaaat?!! Why? Seriously, why?
Both climbing up the slide and swinging on your belly provide different sensory experiences, use different muscles, develop coordination, and are, actually, really, really FUN!
And who says there is only one way to use playground equipment, by the way?
Let your children take common sense risks. That is how they develop their inner uh-oh feeling, their intuition, that will keep them safe from future danger when you’re not around.
If their “risky” behavior interferes with the other children who are playing, stand close to facilitate, but try to let the children work it out. That is how they learn to negotiate and cooperate with others.
Ultimately, the supervising adult has to make common sense calls on safety issues. Just remember... There are very few times during each day when children get to be truly empowered and free. Please choose wisely before interfering.