- At what point should a parent allow their kids to explore and grow in a playground?
- How does a parent conduct a risk assessment in real time whilst at the playground with their kids?
- When does a parent decide it is the right time to give their kids the autonomy in a playground?
- When does a parent decide to rein in an over-exuberant child at the playground?
- How does a parent encourage a risk-adverse child to try out play structures in a playground?
Answering these questions not only requires the ideal parent (do they exist?), but a magical crystal ball with emotions intelligence, relationship management, child analytical skills and above all infinite ability to assess a child’s constantly changing mind!
A trip to the playground a few days back with my 15 month old daughter caused me to reflect on whether I was holding my her back. When a mum with her 2 and half year old daughter and 15 month old son (who, as it happens, shares the same birthday as my daughter) told me to allow my daughter to climb a frame and go down a slide on a scary looking structure. To me, this equipment did not look 15 month old proof: see the images below with my annotation of perceived danger highlighted.
I realised that perhaps I was holding her back; or did I simply not want to be viewed as an overprotective parent? The lady told me that her son had gone on it some weeks back and was fine with it, so by that premise my daughter would be fine. This reassurance from my new friend did not do much to alleviate the pressure within my heart, but I set my little daughter free to explore. Within seconds she was half way up the stairs nearing the gateway of a first experience.
She enjoyed it so much that for the next 30 minutes I could not yank her away! Was this an indication that I had held her back? Possibly yes, but that’s easy to say as everything went well, what if it had gone wrong?
This got me thinking more about what I did with my son when he was my daughter’s age, I allowed him to play on much more complex structures than the one in the above images. I came to the conclusion that I am much more protective of my little girl as I feel she is a lot more fragile, so this perceived danger is an insecurity within me as an ND. But is this insecurity designed to protect us parents and allow us to reflect, and can we find a balance between protecting and enabling our kids?
This situation never stops no matter the age. What do you do when your three year old son, who is limited by his strength, short limbs and his general coordination and balance, wants to go on a giant structure, as in the images below? This is the dilemma we parents deal with; the perceived danger against a child’s natural development in a playground. But can we suspend our reservations and let our child explore and learn? We must assess the risks and the rewards as well as we can to find a balance between heart and mind.