Maya is a year and a half now.
She is allowed to explore safe environments by herself, climb stairs, ladders and chairs, walk along edges etc. By safe environment I mean pretty much anything that doesn’t put her into great danger and her life at risk. Safe for us doesn’t mean she can’t scrape her knees or take small falls. We believe she has to take small falls, little whoopsies, to learn how to avoid the big falls.
Maya doesn’t come with a parent attached at all times.
Hovering over her in a maximum distance of 2 meters. Socially this doesn’t seem to be acceptable any more. I get nervous glances when she checks out the neighbour seats in a train and I don’t jump up immediately to follow her. Adults race to rescue her when they see her on her own on stairs or walking along the jetty we had near our home.
People ask me if I’m not worried about her, that she could fall and hurt herself.
But I trust her, I know what she is capable of and I think she feels this trust and this attitude will make her self confident and believing in her skills. If she could seriously hurt her, for example when low tide exposes the rocks below the jetty, I’m right next to her. But when all that could happen is getting wet, I’m quite relaxed and just keep her in sight.
Raising Maya with a lot of freedom to roam and experiencing things by herself seems natural to us.
A logical choice when raising an independent, strong child. We take small risks, but the whole life is a risk and we think in the end it is a bigger hazard to overprotect her and keep her 100% safe at all times.
She is getting into an age where she should have scraped knees more often than not 😉
Little scrapes are a sign that she is trying new stuff but also getting to know her limits. Which is an important factor in risk management. If a child knows its limits, chances are high it will stay out of bigger harm.
This doesn’t mean she grows up totally abandoned.
We give her as much love and time as we can and were lucky enough to both be home for most of her first year. Our parenting style usually rather falls into the category Attachment Parenting, with baby wearing, family bed, baby led weaning, you name it. When Maya needs mum, she gets mum. Pretty much 24/7.
But when she doesn’t need mum, she can be by herself.
I guess growing up in the safety of knowing your parents are there for you, gives her the independence of moving away from them.
Seon once sent me an article with the title: “The Unsafe Child: Less Outdoor Play is Causing More Harm than Good.”
It points out the benefits of free play outdoors and the consequences when this time and space is decreased. Some staggering results are starting to show up in American cities. They noticed a 30% rise in the past 5 years of children with sensory deficits, needing occupations therapy. An increasing number of kids struggle with underdeveloped balance systems, they get clumsier, fall off chairs, bump into each other.
The article explains this alarming development:
“A child’s neurological system is naturally designed to seek out the sensory input it needs in order to develop into a strong and capable individual. For instance, if a child starts jumping off small rocks, that is because her brain is ready for this type of activity. If a child is spinning in circles just for fun, it is because he needs that sensory input. If she climbs a tree effortlessly, it means she is capable of doing so.
It is only when adults consistently step in and say, “No” to everything physical the child attempts that we start to see problems in development.
“No climbing,” “No running,” “No playing tag,” “No spinning,” “No picking up sticks,” “No getting dirty,” “No jumping off the rocks,” “No climbing the rocks,” we yell when children attempt any kind of risky behaviour.”
I couldn’t say it any better and it just feels right for us to let Maya do the things she wants to do. She loved to crawl up and down stairs when she was one year old. We wouldn’t even think of keeping her from doing it. If she wants to do it, she will learn how to do it.
I also notice how important it is for her to be outdoors, rain or sun, hot or cold.
She wants to get out of the house and if I keep her indoors for more than half a day, she gets absolutely cranky and annoying. It almost feels like she is programmed with a need to spend time outdoors. Which she probably is!
To wrap things up, check out this video which contains a lot of what we believe in!
If you enjoyed the video, this is the website behind it: bornwildproject.com
On a final note – this is of course a personal choice we made for the education of our children.
This doesn’t mean that the way how other parents educate their kids is better or worse, I think every parent does what he or she thinks is the very best for their own child and I respect that. If for example I take care of a child from a family that is more safety conscious, I adopt their standards for their child while I watch it.
But for our children, Seon and I decided to rather take small risks and let our kids experience and learn by themselves, so they will build up self-confidence rather than fear (of falling, getting dirty, etc).