Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Extending the boundaries of play

My son is looking at me incredulously. "All the way to the edges? Are you sure?"

Yup, I'm sure.
Whose woods these are, I do not know.

We're discussing his new boundaries in the backyard. I've told him that he can follow the woods behind our house all the way to the water without a grown-up. His look of mild shock turns into a wide grin. I ask him how he feels about having so much room for unsupervised exploration.

"Really happy, but a little scared. Mostly happy," he says. He then collects some "things he will need" and disappears into the woods. I head into the house.

I don't mean to write that sentence "I head into the house," as if this is no big deal for me. I am nervous and worried and feel like this is a big step, but it is a step that I need to take to continue to teach my son to be self reliant.

The day after opening the boundaries in our backyard, I read this great New York Times piece on a man who wants to make his entire neighborhood a play zone for children. I think it captures a lot of the fears that parents have: I don't want my child to get hurt, but I want my child to have the fun that I had growing up. I am not sure how those two opposite ideas became linked in all our heads.

When my son came out of the woods that first day, he was dirty and his cheeks were flushed and he was elated. He grabbed some more things and headed back out to the woods to play. I remembered all the times that I went into the woods near my grandparents' house - completely unsupervised. I hope my son explores until he thinks of those woods as a second home. I hope he sees animals back there. I know he will come out with scrapes and bruises. But I hope, most of all, that he has fun.

What bit of your childhood do you wish you could also let your children experience? Tell me in the comments.


  1. When my kids were small, they had much less freedom than I did as a child. They grew up in London, on a busy street, when risk-awareness was high. I grew up in a quiet suburb. I could ride my bike and stay out for hours...all my friends did too. We had some close shaves. But it was fun.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Mimi! As a suburb kid and mom, I can't imagine what it would be like to raise children in a city. I am sure it is a much different world!