I originally planned to sit down and write a post on outdoor games for kids, but then it struck me. I watch kids playing outside from a distance all the time. In the playground, park or the garden. And their games are absorbing. They organise themselves, gather props, negotiate and appear thoroughly focused on their activities, but most of the time I have no idea what they are playing!
Outdoor play, like the outdoors itself, is by its very nature unstructured. The outdoors is a continually evolving playground. Plants grow, flower, seed and die. Puddles and streams come and go. Animals make their homes and leave their mark. Some days are warm, while others are bitterly cold. And it the very fact that it is unstructured that I believe kids love. That little bit of space not governed by adults where they can try things out, take risks and make their own decisions without having their activities defined for them.
Which leads to the question do we give our children enough space? Space to play, to explore, to develop skills and to push themselves. Parents work hard to provide for their kids. We support their learning, enrol them in clubs and drive them to endless birthday parties. But by filling their time with all these activities do we take something away from them?
Of course, leaving kids to their own devices is risky. Walls get drawn on, fights break out, and accidents can happen. But we all learn from the mistakes we make, and even more importantly learn to put things right. A fundamental skill which is invaluable throughout life.
Children face challenging situations every day at home, at school, online, as well as while out and about. We cant, as parents, always be there to protect and guide them. Giving kids the space to learn to assess situations, and how and when to seek help, teaches critical thinking and equips them for later life. So next time your kids stride out on their own, watch from afar and give them their space.