Should Kids Be Allowed Unsupervised Play?

Genius of Play - Play Talk

I let my kids play unsupervised.

There.  I said it.

Some of you are praising Hallelujah! I have the good sense God gave me to raise strong, independent, creative kids.  Some of you just clutched your pearls and prayed on my feral children.  Most of you likely fall somewhere in between.

Perfect parenting doesn’t exist and we all do the best we can with the tools at our disposal.

The Genius of Play – Play Talk

Since we’re all sitting in this kumbaya circle of acceptance, lets talk play as we sip our (cold) coffee and (sorta) watch the wee ones run around the park like banshees.

The Genius of Play has generously offered to compensate me for oversharing but trust all mom-fails and opinions are strictly my own.

Responsible or Negligent

There’s a big difference between age-appropriate unsupervised play time and being negligent of your children.  I’m certainly not advocating for the latter and trust you keep your kids’ safety in mind.

I, for one, certainly pass no judgement on your parenting style.  You won’t find me casting stones if your kids play outside alone or – heaven forbid – have learned to responsibly take city transit for short distances.

What’s the worst that can happen

We all ask ourselves this, and while I have no suitable answer I can tell you what * has * happened.  Shining moments of glory these were not, and certainly no Mother Of The Year awards were handed out.  

#Parenting What happened when I allowed unsupervised play #geniusofplay @TheToyAssoc by @XD_Impact Click To Tweet

Dancing in Windows

Jasmine & I were a fierce duo nearly from birth.  Around the time she was about 18 months old we shared a bedroom in a ground floor apartment.

I’ve always enforced nap times and on this particular day I could hear Jasmine messing around in the bedroom.  I was determined to let her fall asleep – were were both exhausted – and knew if I just gave her enough time she’d tire out and hunker down.

Except it suddenly got quiet TOO quiet.

I peeked into her bedroom and almost pissed myself laughing.  Knowing no one would believe me without hard evidence, I quietly made my way outside – phone in hand – ready to record this nonsense.

< Waves Furiously >

My dear, sweet, child was standing in the windowsill wearing naught by a nappy and a t-shirt, waving furiously at all the cars that went by and the people walking out front.  She was dancing, playing peekaboo, and having a blast.

Oh.  Um.  Small detail. …We lived on the main drag.

A minute went by before she noticed me, and she was so proud it was hard to get mad.

The Holiday Haircut

Annabelle has always been more independent than her sisters. Her art desk is her ‘Office’ and she can be found there doing ‘Homework’ she’s invented or drawing endless pictures of who and what she misses.

On a few occasions I have found myself coming out of the washroom to find her in a pile of bread or engrossed in ‘The Elements of Style’ – upside down, of course.  She ‘read’ that book for 1/2 hour before letting it down!

Usually a fairly tame child, she did surprise us with an impromptu haircut a week before Christmas one year.

The Evidence

That Time I took a Shower

One afternoon I decided to have a shower while Chloe napped.  I needed sleep, but that day I needed a shower even more.

I waited until she was snoring and ninja-rolled out of the bedroom.  I came back to find her with headphones ones, 1/2 dressed, writing on her foot with  pen (I’d been working in the bed previously).  I sat there and watched until she realized I was back.

Chloe’s Cat Soup

When Chloe was a baby I couldn’t turn around for a minute without finding her attached to one of the cats.  It seems they gravitated towards her, and she to them.

These guys were great – and after 3 babies were extremely tolerant.  Plus, she was kind of their favorite because she shared food with them.

Once she started crawling we’d find her making ‘cat soup’ – dumping all the cat food in the water bowl, then trying to shove it in her mouth – if we accidentally left the gate open or even escaped for a minute to go pee.

That Time UPS Rang the Doorbell

Being the youngest of three there was a year when Chloe was still at home and both her sisters were at school.

That child did not waste a single moment of those hours, as can be evidenced here.

I came back from signing for a package and found her sharing a sucker with Olaf.  Gramma gave her the sucker.  Olaf gave her the puppy eyes.  “I’m SHARING Maman!”.

Olaf’s Piano Lessons

In case you haven’t figured it out, Chloe is our Animal Whisperer.  On this day I had to take a work call and she went to the other living room to play quietly for a few minutes.

This is what I came back to.

Olaf The Baby

I’m not ashamed to say that I let me kids play in a room alone – be it the living room, their bedroom, or somewhere in the stairs.

Once again, I found Olaf in a compromising situation.  His lips were sealed though.  Never once did he tattle tale on her!

Helicopter Parenting?

Clearly, “Helicopter Parent” I am not.

My kids regularly participate in age-appropriate unsupervised play such as spending 15-20 at the park after school (1 block away), playing out front on their bikes (I‘ll add I would never have allowed this in our old neighborhood), and for the oldest allowing her to go for a short walk on her own before dinner.

All three benefit greatly from being able to spend time by themselves.  I have seen their creativity flourish, their problem solving skills improve, and  their self confidence take a boost when they accomplish something they’ve been working on for a while, supposedly in secret.

They’re so damn loud though, what they’re up to is rarely secretive.

What’s the worst that could happen?  Probably a lot, likely no different than the risk of driving to the supermarket.   What has happened isn’t all that bad, all things considered.  They are safe, they are well, and that’s what matters to me.

How do you navigate keeping * your * kids safe while giving them the independence they crave? 

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