It's a confusing time to be a parent! Many parents let their children do things that aren’t good for their development like play video games, but they don't let their children do things that are good for their development like take risks and get dirty.
Here are three things that you must let your children do no matter how much it makes you panic:
1) Climb a Tree
Children have a natural sense of what they can do and what they can't do. Serious accidents are uncommon, but in the helicopter parenting world today, parents are afraid (moms especially) to let their children do things because they "might" get hurt.
Let them get hurt! A few bumps and scrapes won't kill them. They even survive broken bones.
We grew up in Northern California amongst the redwood trees, the most towering trees in the world. I don’t think we climbed Redwoods, but whatever it was that we did climb, they were tall. We would climb until we got tired of climbing or too scared to climb any higher, which was usually about 30 feet up those trees (an educated guess looking back many years!).
Yes, it was scary, but it was also a thrill.
We felt like conquerors, not of land but of our fear. We felt a sense of accomplishment to climb so high, and it gave us a sense of confidence, excitement, and adventure.
Not everyone has such tall trees available to them, but I have since witnessed mothers who were afraid to let their four-year-olds climb a thick tree branch that was two feet off the ground.
If a parent says things like, "Stop, that's too dangerous!" you interfere with your child’s developmental process.
If something is too dangerous–as in death could result–you probably want to intervene, but beyond that let them soar.
2) Make Mud Pies
Children love to play in the mud. They don't think in constructs of "clean" and "dirty" like we do. They think in constructs of fun, exciting, and worth doing–at least to them. And playing in mud has all three of these. So indulge them.
We had a backyard with a large section of dirt in it. My children spent hours in that section covering themselves in mud to their heart's content. Mud was matted in their hair, dripping from their ears, and embedded in their clothes by the time they finished. I had a huge mess to clean up, but it was always more amusing to me than anything else.
They made mud pies and had make-believe meals, they examined the mud as they closed their fists around it and watched it squish through their fingers, and they had lots of mud fights.
Mud is a perfect medium for developing your children’s senses, imagination, and motor skills - it's a great natural resource that will keep them occupied for hours.
I know this might be over the top for many of you, but unless you live in an area where they spray pesticides or you live in a high traffic zone, then let your children eat mud. They won't eat much, but they do like to taste it. I remember eating mud when I was young. It tasted like clay, but I don't think I did more than just taste it. The point is that there was no one hovering over me telling me to stop.
And if an adult was nearby, they weren't worried about it either. Tasting mud was a part of childhood - all children try it at some point. Who doesn't want to know what a little bit of mud tastes like?!
According to modern science, immersing themselves in mud boosters their immune systems. We even have an International Mud Day on June 29th now. This holiday is in retaliation to the hyper-sterile environment that children are growing up in. According to the "Hygiene Hypothesis," the sterile environment is putting children at risk for allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases as they get older.
Why? Because the immune system develops by exposure to bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and in the modernly-sterile environment children's immune systems are not being exposed to these things enough, and therefore, they’re immune systems aren't developing as well as they should be.
This makes sense, doesn't it?
3) Roll Down Hills
We used to climb to the top of a small hill and then see who could roll down the fastest. Do children even climb hills today?! They will get dirty, and they may even get grass stains, but that’s all right.
Children need clothes they can get dirty in. While it's fine to have an outfit or two for when the occasion calls, the day-to-day dress of children should not be designer clothes but rough and tumble clothes.
I'm much happier seeing a child with patched knees than a child dressed for a party. Come to think of it; I never see children with patched knees anymore!
And one last thing, remember that a few bumps, and bruises never killed anyone. Children take pride in their bumps and bruises especially the ones that require some cleaning and bandaging.
They're a sign of the battles they fight on the playground of life.
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Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.
A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college.