One of the biggest challenges that parents face is to let our children make their own discoveries, without holding them back. This can be very difficult when we are so aware of the dangers that the world has. Even a simple trip to the park can present hazards that a child is completely oblivious to. It could be the height of the climbing frame, or the fast-spinning merry-go-round. But is it is important to remember that conquering these things are an essential part of learning. So how do we keep them safe, and let them run free at the same time?
Conquer the playground together
The playground and the soft play centre are some of the first places that we take young children. It is not only fun, but they will be learning how to control their growing bodies. Don’t be the helicopter parent, always hovering above like a leopard waiting to pounce. Instead use this as an opportunity to join in. Children will think it’s great fun if you’re on the climbing frame too, or if you go down the bumpy slide holding hands. If they are frightened or scared, you are there to conquer these fears together. It’s easy to forget the sheer joy of a simple playground - rediscover it with your child.
Be creative when teaching them about hazards
Take a trip to the forest - not just to explore, but to become scientists, looking for the rare Sapphire Beetle with the crystal glass wings. Search for clues, smell the plants, document the changing weather, touch the earth and collect samples of bark. You can use this opportunity to educate them about the things not to touch, such as mushrooms and fungi. Show them the places where snakes might nest, and why they should avoid those areas. They will remember far better than if you are dictating to them about right and wrong. Create a story and show them how to use their imagination. Children love it when you play with them - they can be safe with you, but learn about the world in a fun and amazing way.
Don’t worry about the mess
When you are at home with your child, try not to make a fuss about how much mess they make, as long as they are safe. These are children, it is almost their job to be messy. Does it matter if they have muddy hands from the garden? A child covered in paint from head to toe is a happy one. Enjoy this freedom with them. Imagine yourself to be a child, enjoying the simple things in life. Put down your phone, wear your old clothes and explore the world with them. Young children need to play to learn, and if yuo join them, they may even teach you a thing or two!
The Nature Play QLD website has lots of resources and ideas to encourage your kids to play in nature. To get you started, why not check out the Passport to an Amazing Childhood Program or the DIY Nature Play Page.