I was inspired by an article from theatlantic.com called The Overprotected Kid. It got me thinking about my own childhood, and how I am now raising my own kids.
Looking back on my own childhood it consisted of playing outside a lot, whether it be with my sister, friends, or other kids in the neighbourhood. We would go to the park around the corner from our house by ourselves. As we got a bit older, we even ventured to the neighbourhood convenience store for the occassional slurpy and treat by ourselves. If the weather wasn’t nice, we’d play in our play room in our basement, playing house, school, etc.
At school, I can remember playing with my friends in one of the sandpits in the school yard. We carved out our “houses” and collected lids off tin cans and other little pieces of garbage from a near by alley way to be our plates and decorations. My husband and I were recently at the park with our own daughters, when I observed similar behaviour of playing with the garbage on the playground. My oldest found an empty fruit cup container and was filling it with gravel pretending it was cat nip for Puss N’Boots, played by my youngest daughter.
Before we moved out of the city, I can recall one of our neighbours who had a couple of boys. She would sit outside in her lawn chair reading a book while her kids rode their bikes up and down the sidewalk on our block. What happened to the days of letting the kids out to play on their own.
For the past couple of years, I have let our girls play outside on their own. My only rules are, they have to stay on the sidewalk, and they can’t leave our block. They have also spent countless hours playing in the back yard on their own.
I have found a stranded toddler stuck on the swing set ladder she tried to climb to do the monkey bars by herself. I’ve found another child heaped on the sidewalk as she had tried to ride her bike down 2 steps to the sidewalk. Am I a bad parent? Some might think so. I’d rather think I was helping to build character. Why not let the kids explore and learn for themselves what the consequences are?
Last weekend we let the kids have free range of our upstairs with some friends, while us adults were working in the basement. At one point, I had gone upstairs to find them working on crafts. They were making taborines with some paper plates they found and they wanted macaroni to put into them to make them noisy. They had also helped themselves to cookies left sitting out on the counter, and had poured themselves juice. Was I mad? No, at least they were playing nicely together.
Kids should be allowed a certain level of autonomy. Let them play!