Today was a park day. We took the girls and one of their cousins to the park for some outside playtime before the fall weather starts to turn and the equipment gets buried by the snow. The older girls immediately went for opportunities to climb the play structures as high as they could go. Our two year old started out with lots of climbing up the stairs and sliding down the twirly slide.
Then she discovered other ways of getting up to the slide. She ditched the stairs and starting climbing up other ways.
As she got halfway up this one she started saying “almost there” and when she got to the top “I did it!” She kept repeating “I did it” until she went down the slide. She climbed up seven or eight times before moving on to the next challenge.
Initially I told her I didn’t think she could do that one. She ignored me – much of like all of my kids do most of the time that I say anything. She started climbing and I saw that she probably would be able to do it so I stood close by in case she slipped and to provide some tips for the top section. Once she had done it a few times I stopped getting ready to catch her and just encouraged her by letting her know that she was doing some good climbing.
A few years ago I wrote about parenting from the park bench by backing off and letting our kids explore their own abilities at the park. Whenever my kids want to climb things like this or take risks I have to work hard to suppress my desire to tell them not to do it because I think it is dangerous. I remind myself to step back and let them make the effort and see what they can learn. I want them to test their limits and push themselves and take risks. If I stop them every time they want to try something new they won’t learn to take risks and grow. As children’s entertainer Fred Rogers once said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”For children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. - Mr. RogersClick To Tweet
There was another dad and daughter at the playground when we were there and when she started climbing higher on the play structure he told her to stop because it was too windy. I thought that was a bit of a weak cover for his own fears. Later I was glad to see him and his daughter over at a soccer goal and she had climbed on to the top bar and was working her way across it with his support.
Kids love to play and playing provides them with many benefits. They play games that they know and negotiate the rules. They use their imagination and develop new games. They race and challenge one another. The younger kids watch the older kids and learn the art of the possible. I had to caution my oldest daughter against a couple of activities because I knew that the other girls would try to emulate, but that would definitely not be safe for the smaller ones. Kids stretch to achieve their goals and see what they can accomplish. When they accomplish those goals, they gain confidence to do hard things. When they don’t achieve those goals, they try again or they learn to move on, all of which helps them to build resilience that can be applied in other parts of their lives. Challenges give us all opportunities for growth and development and it is important that we as parents give our kids the space to take risks, learn, develop and achieve.