Recently I was talking with a friend of mine that was telling me about a study she had read (because she's really smart and savy like that!) that suggested that kids need to have more unplanned play in their lives in order to develop their ability to problem solve and think creatively. And it reminded me to make sure that I'm being more intentional to do that with my son. I feel like I'm a pretty engaged dad but I'm sure there's such a thing as being too engaged. The hovering parent. The parent that books their kids' lives full with activities. The parent that shows their kids how to play. . . .which are not all bad things . . . but are we causing our kids to miss out on an essential element of learning and developing? . . . Discovery.
I can remember when I was younger my mom would cut me lose with my bike and my neighborhood friends and the only instructions she gave me were to be home by a certain time for dinner. She didn't have to come with us. We didn't have a cell phone to check in with. She just told us to make sure we were back home by a certain time. (or in the summer by sunset) Obviously there are some safety issues that jump out to most parents when they hear that but it was a different world back when I was younger and I was always with other friends and my older brother and his friend were usually there too.
We recently took our son to Sea World in San Diego for the first time and we were both excited for all of the awesome things he would get to see! They have so many great shows and attractions but what he loved more than anything was the Elmo-themed kid zone. . . Which makes sense since he's four. It had cargo nets he could climb, bridges high up in the sky that he could run on, slides, rides for younger children, and a spray park to cool off in. He was so excited about the spay park that we just stripped him down to his underwear and let him go! (Good thing it was a really hot day!)
My wife and I are always wanting to give our son great experiences and expose him to all of the opportunities that are out there! . . . But I'm continuing to realize that he doesn't always need us to help him. To plan everything for him. To show him how to play. To make him have the experiences that I think are important. . . . . Sometimes we need to just let him run free and see what he discovers on his own . . . because he'll figure it out on his own! . . . And instead of being told or shown . . . he'll Discover!