On Their Own

This morning, while watching the boys stand blankly in our yard, I noticed that they were feeling bored.

“But what can we do outsideee?” whined Colin.

For goodness sake kid, you live on a 300 acre YMCA Camp, I thought to myself. With determination for them to stay outside and play, I turned on the hose, set it in the driveway and replied, “Watch the water make a stream, then see what you figure out next.”

Notice how I said see what you figure out next. It is important to me that Colin and Owen learn how to play and explore on their own. I always supervise them for safety, but I don’t want to constantly be there, managing and leading every activity and game they play. I want them to be independent thinkers, experience success and failure, and make their own discoveries. I allow them to argue, fight, and work out their own problems with each other (I only interfere if it sounds like someone is hurt or property is being damaged – toys being thrown). If they are angry with each other and come to me for guidance, I say things like:

How can the two of you work this out?
Can you find a way to share it?
Go take a moment to calm down in your room. When you come out, we can work on       this.
Did you tell him how it made you feel?

Or my famous, “It’s all worked out. Now it’s time to move on with life and get back to playing.”

When I used to work as an Elementary School Counselor, I began noticing that many (not all) children did not know how to problem solve or play by themselves indoors or outdoors. I observed that many (not all) parents were all to happy to swoop in and do everything for their children. Additionally, many of those children that did not know how to play or problem solve were overexposed to television and game systems, or had toys that did all the playing for them. When Colin and Owen were born, I promised them that I would allow them to be independent. I tried to collect classic toys that did not need batteries. I encouraged them play with sticks and in the dirt. Occasionally, I do catch myself buzzing around too much and need to remind myself to step back.

Water must be the secret ingredient to making anything fun.

Colin built dams.

Owen played with trucks.

And I sat on the porch with the computer and got some writing done while they played happily on their own.

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12 thoughts on “On Their Own

  1. I love seeing where the play goes each day with my daughter. Children’s imaginations are such precious things, and its’ so important to keep that creativity alive. Your children look like they’re having a fabulous time!
    Visiting from the Sunday Parenting Party

  2. I could not agree with your philosophy on childhood any more! I too try to foster independence and problem solving in my child. I’m so glad that you shared this on The Sunday Parenting Party and that I found your wonderful blog! I’m sharing this on my facebook page and it will be featured on tomorrow’s Sunday Parenting Party on my blog.

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  5. Wonderful post! I also feel strongly that children should be encouraged to be independent thinkers and to make their own fun. My little guy is and always has been shy, cautious and very attached to me. Good reminders here about helping him work towards independence as he grows up.

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