Things are heating up around here. We’re getting more sunny days and fewer rainy ones. It’s a great time of year to send the kids outside to play.
I know that it’s sometimes hard to send the kids out to play when you don’t want to follow them. But once they’re old enough, you should be starting to have them play outside without you anyhow. Just think of how much you probably played outside without adult participation as a child. I hope it was a lot.
Both outdoor play and playing without adults setting the rules or watching too carefully is good for kids, so long as conditions are safe. In some neighborhoods, kids can be safe playing on their own at very young ages. In other places, you need to wait for them to have better judgement. It comes down to your judgement as a parent.
Just remember that if you don’t let them learn to figure out what’s safe on their own, your kids will have a very hard time learning to do that on their own. They need to make little mistakes, get hurt in various ways so that they learn to avoid bigger injuries and to be more independent.
Outdoor play is generally healthy for kids. While their everyday play may be in your front or back yard, or at a local playground if you have one close enough, don’t forget to take your kids to see nature in its most natural forms. Take them hiking. Go camping. Go to the beach, a lake, a river, whatever you have available to you.
I know parents have a lot of fears these days about letting their kids play outside without an adult right there, even as they get older. It’s very important for your kids that you learn to keep your concerns realistic. The fears about child snatching and such are greatly overblown in most situations by the media.
If you’re not too comfortable about having your kids play outside without you, try to find some friends for them and have them play in a group. Kids are safer in a group and they’ll have loads of fun together. Set appropriate rules about where they can go and when to be back home, and try to relax.
You don’t have to keep them inside entirely on rainy days either. Soaking wet, possibly muddy kids aren’t too much fun for you to clean up after, but many kids will appreciate the chance to play in the rain. Just so long as it’s not too serious a storm, and have hot chocolate or another treat ready to warm them back up.
They don’t always have to be outside without you. Spring is one of the best times of year for showing kids the wonders of nature. Show them the leaves coming back on the trees, the flowers blooming, animals coming back out, whatever you can find for them in your area. You could even decide to start gardening together.
When the kids come back messy or tired from having fun, just remind yourself that they’re doing things that are good for them on many levels. Playing outside is a way to help kids be healthier, do better in school, be more creative and so much more.
If you’re concerned about letting your kids play outside, there are two books I would recommend reading. One is Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. The other is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.
I love both those books. I was given each of them as review copies some time back, and I’ve mentioned them at various times because I really and truly enjoyed them. They’re great references for parents.