I lived outside as a kid...well, not literally, but we were outside all the time. Quite a few of my childhood memories are of climbing trees, making mud pies for our pretend bakery, building a club house with spare wood around the yard, exploring the crawl space under our house, riding our bikes up and down the street with no hands (I thought I looked totally cool doing that too), and pretending we were boxcar children when playing around some old abandoned train cars on the outer part of our little town.
As parents in today's society, we tend to live with quite a bit of fear in letting our children explore our environment on their own. I am definitely included in that group of mothers who want to be with their children at all times in order to keep them completely and utterly safe. We live in Florida, where it seems by news reports to be the kidnap capital of the US. That freaks me out. I have heard two stories lately of children getting run over by cars while riding their bikes...again, freaks me out.
When thinking of all these "worst case scenarios", it makes me want to gather my children up under my wings and never let them go anywhere without my watchful eyes on them continuously. The world is a dangerous place, ya know.
However, I have recently realized that in preventing my children from doing things that have the potential for physical harm, I could also be preventing them from growing mentally and emotionally in a way that they may need. By climbing trees and monkey bars, they have to make decisions and be confident in their decisions, and they know that if they make poor decisions, the consequences are painful. By exploring the woods, they grow in responsibility of being capable of maintaining direction of their location and gain courage of tackling an area that may have bugs and critters and animals. They earn their sibling's trust as they help one another tackle rough terrain and different circumstances without the aid of an adult around.
These are amazing learning opportunities for the kids, and more than anything, it is so much fun. Since relinquishing my strong hold on "I must see you at all times", they have loved and begged to go outside and play...for hours and hours. They have created a "girl's club" and do everything outside, from reading and doing homework to eating meals and snacks. They have made trails and "houses" and obstacle courses...the possibilities for them is really endless.
Even the little man gets out there is small spurts (though I'm not quite ready to let go of the reigns of total responsibility of him quite yet and make sure I can see him at all times...baby steps). It took a while (and gradual nudging from my dear husband) to allow them to explore their world without me, but it has been an amazing experience for everyone.