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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