Sunday, 30 June 2013

Playing Out, A Lesson In Life

Both Thomas and Amy have been out a lot today. Tom has been playing with his friends and Amy has been to her friend's house.

I don't know about other mums but I find this fear of letting children play out in case something dreadful happens to them very sad. There are millions of children in this country and whilst a small minority do come to harm, thankfully the majority stay safe.  

We're not afraid to let ours play out. Of course there are certain rules and we've had the 'stranger danger' talk but we try not to go overboard and instil the fear of God into them. Playing out is supposed to be fun! 
Amy's too old for 'playing out' now, but she goes to friends houses or into town and as long as I know where she is and who's she's with I'm pretty OK with that. Of course, I'm not naive. I was a teenager once, but she's a sensible girl and I trust her. She's not very streetwise though and I think that's my biggest worry with her.

There's a small group of children who live just across the road and around the corner from us and Thomas' best friend lives right next to the grassy area where they all play.  I'm friendly with his Mum and when he's over there she keeps an eye on him, but I always stress that she's not responsible for Thomas just because he's playing next to her house.
Thomas ready to play army. The sunglasses are actually his night vision goggles. Don't you just love kid's imagination.

So, why do I think playing out is a good lesson in life?

Well, firstly, Thomas has only been playing out on his own for about 3 months. All the other children go to the same school and some are in the same class, so he's had to join a group that was already formed. I think making new friends and being able to talk to different people is always a good thing.

Secondly, road safety. We live on a quiet road, but cars do pass our house and weekends can be fairly busy. After the first couple of lessons on road safety he's now allowed to cross on his own.

Then there's confidence, something Thomas has lacked in the past. At first I had to knock on his friend's door with him but he's now gained the independence and confidence to do this by himself.

Some plans also need organisation and he rings his friends to see what they are doing. Listening to them make arrangements is really funny. But organising is a good skill to learn, as is remembering what the arrangements are!

Of course, sometimes there's trouble. He's been pushed over by a couple of older girls, so we've had to speak to him about standing up for himself.  I'm afraid neither of us agree with the 'don't hit back' philosophy. Don't get me wrong, we don't condone violence and mine would get a right roasting if they hit anybody first, but there's not always going to be somebody in their life to deal with the bullies and sort their problems out for them. They need to learn how to stand up for themselves, verbally and physically and also more importantly, when to walk away from trouble.

His friends are a lovely bunch of lads and they can be out for hours playing typical boys games; football, army, dens & dodgeball. I don't think any of them will be bored in the holidays.

And surely, this is how childhood should be. I often wonder whether children really do prefer to be indoors or whether if they were given a little bit of freedom they would actually rather be outside.


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