Summer Fun With A Few Rough Edges

This is not BCAHL’s first blog touting the benefits of more play, especially out in nature. A little danger, a little dirt means a lot more fun for kids and adults. It’s hard as a parent to stand back and let our children go too fast and fall off their bikes, or climb higher up that tree or jump into a huge mud puddle. We have to bite our tongues to avoid saying ‘be careful’, ‘don’t get dirty’ and other parental mantras. But the evidence points to the fact that growing brains need the opportunities for problem solving that come along with the danger and dirt. Because with risk there is also reward.

Take this example – my family of four went on holiday this year and saw many historical and education sites, but the most memorable for my kids was playing in the woods with their cousins and fording streams. Educational? Definitely! We found out that dock leaves help stinging nettle (after my son headed straight into a patch of it). We also got introduced to ‘sticky willy’. A plant found in British forests that sticks to clothes no matter how big of a clump you throw at someone!

National Public Radio (NPR) has a great series on different scientific and social breakthroughs in the realm of play. You can read them or look at them on-line and get a visual on some ‘adventure’ playgrounds being built in the U.S. ‘where the wild things play’. But if you’re looking for opportunities they abound in your own neighbourhoods.

Some ‘freeing’ experiences for little and maybe some for slightly bigger kids to try this summer might include:

  • Fort building (with hammer and nails)
  • Capture the flag (with kids across the neighbourhood and without an adult referee)
  • Tree climbing
  • Geocaching
  • Sleeping out with a friend in the backyard or back porch
  • Bike riding

Kids need to be given opportunities to try things out, work out solutions and get creative with their play without parents immediately jumping into the fray. It’s a demonstration of our trust in their abilities. And wouldn’t we rather that our kids learn responsibility and decision-making before they enter their teens and the stakes become higher?

So while I haven’t hung up my whistle completely, I’m trying to retire from my referee role.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Programs and Policy
August 2014

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