In today’s media rich culture, it can be difficult to find time to get outdoors. There are emails to reply to, news to read about, and other important bits of information floating around on that screen in front of you. But there is also a rich environment right outside your front door (or around the corner at the closest park).
Children need opportunities to explore outdoors. They need lengthy amounts of time to really engage in thoughtful outdoor play. They need opportunities to move beyond the sterile and structured playground equipment to the dirt, sand, rocks, and sticks that are just under their feet. Children need to take risks and feel what it is like to trip, fall, scrape a knee, and then to get up and go again.
When children do things that might seem risky, they are learning balance, fine and gross motor skills, how to stop and push themselves, and how to play with the simplest of things – nature.
Schools and kindergartens are going too far in banning chasing games and climbing on monkey bars. Think back to when you were a child. How often did someone actually hurt themselves in these games? It was very rarely and usually a very minor injury. Kids are more aware of risk and safety than we give them credit for. While they are happy to take a risk in play, they actively avoid anything dangerous. It’s instinct.
It’s time to stop wrapping kids in cotton wool and let children play outdoors but that might first start with the parent getting outside themselves. If you are unsure where to begin, take one of your favorite indoor activities and move it outdoors. Find a spot to mend some clothes, paint your toes under a tree, eat a snack at a picnic table, or read a book in a hammock. Most children will follow their parents outdoors and will quickly begin to enjoy this new way of life. As you and your children spend more time outdoors you will find that comfortable line between being a responsible parent and letting your child take a few risks.