Play Part 2
Helen's motto: "You need a paddock to raise boys."
Parks are your own paddock, the acres you don't have to pay
for, the lawn you don't have to mow. And you don't have to tidy
SPACE, freedom, adventure, running. Forget free range chickens,
we need free range children - not cooped up and electrically
coddled. Get out that energy in healthy ways for children who
are tired from burning up their energy, not tired from lethargy.
In a large open space you can watch alot of children at once.
If they don't come up with their own games, give them a little
start - a piece of cardboard box to slide down the hill. Wrap up
in a raincoat and roll down the hill. Tie a rope to a tree and
haul yourself up, or a box of equipment (food) using a simple
pulley. Climb in a box and be pushed in grass races - until you
hit a bump. A stick is a sword or a horse or a tight rope pole.
Every little girl knows leaves and pieces of bark are just as good
as money for playing shops.
At a park, the children's obedience is their freedom. Give older
ones a whistle and you blow signals to each other - appear and
wave, come back, help!, or (the most popular) bring food. Use this play to show the principle that obedience increases freedom rather than restricting it. The more they can obey, the farther they can go. You CAN take them to the beach because you know they will obey enough to keep them safe.
Having four boys in a row and being a city girl, I had a fear of
raising city boys - pampered, afraid of nature, unable to take care of themselves. I would rather have to deal with a broken arm than have my boys afraid to climb a tree.
Overdone caution restricts their development. We actively stop the children from experiencing range. We keep them completely comfortable - never cold, hungry, or worn out. They need to experience contrast to learn many of life's lessons and to learn compassion for others. Hungry means that slight niggle between snack times, not the real pain of hunger. Cold means slightly chilly. Hot means a liitle too warm. Rush inside to the heater and airconditioner. Let them develop a little fortitude and a great place to do it is at the park.
Bush walking, beaches, mountains, open fields - whatever nature is near you. You don't have to prepare or plan. Just take food and go. You can guarantee an adventure. They just happen.
Three times we walked along an ordinary country road - high hedges on each side. The first time we threw our own special leaf or stick off the bridge and raced them - which appeared on the other side first? The second time a sheep was out. We tried to herd it back inside the fence and discovered that sheep are completely stupid. The third time we noticed how solid and prickly those hedges were, but that animals had made little paths under them and a few brave children tried to follow the paths. Each time we returned rosy cheeked and happy with an exciting adventure to tell those left at home.
Bushwalking along trails in the city we have fed ducks; come across a brightly coloured, thorny and very impressive lizard; hidden so well that even the dog couldn't find us by lying flat on top of a high rock; got caught in a downpour and found that trees work pretty good; and imagined that bushland as cleared and dull as the suburbs.
At the beach we have seen an octopus in a rock pool; made prize winning sand sculptures; discovered that when the air is cold the water seems warm; and envied surfers, sailors, hang gliders and the lifesavers with their long boats and oars.
At the local park we have made a secret fort; hidden and stalked bad guys (sisters); put on a gymnastics display showing off skills that none of them had; stopped for a quick play and stayed two hours in the rain 1. because they were having soooo much fun in the red mud they found somewhere and 2. because the mothers were delaying the trauma of the clean up, and enjoying chatting.
Bundle up the baby, take some hand work so you can relax and be creative all while allowing adventures, invite a friend. Consider it a healthy necessity for children, not an inconvenience for you.
So turn off the electric toys, get off the couch, get out of the house and go free range.