The Benefits Of Independent Play

Last week I wrote down some of my thoughts about independent play and how it took time for my daughter to learn how to play. Play is not just something kids do for fun. It’s actual work. It is how their brains put together new experiences and learn to interact with the world. And while I was trying to push my daughter towards more independent play so that I could have a few minutes alone to work on what I needed, there are also many other benefits you can find from independent play. 

  • It fosters imagination. It gives them time to explore a whole new world that has yet to be created. 
  • It aids in problem-solving. When someone else isn’t there helping them solve their problems of blocks not fitting together right or the tower not stacking properly, they start relying on themselves and their own problem-solving skills. 
  • It boosts confidence! Allowing them the opportunity to utilize their own toys and manipulate them in the way they want can create confidence in themselves that otherwise may not be there if there is someone else present playing with them. 
  • Independent play can be a great way to prepare them for school. Working independently is a part of anyone’s education, and learning how to do this through play can prove to be more beneficial in the long run. 
  • It teaches them about alone time. Yes, as a parent you are given a few minutes of alone time to accomplish what you need to, but it’s also teaching your child how to have alone time and use it to recharge or accomplish what they need to. 

The next time you feel bad telling your kids to “go play”, you don’t need to! Allowing them independent playtime can be great for many reasons. Keep your eye out over the next few weeks for my post on how you can foster independent play for your own kids that may not do well with playing on their own. 

Why Is Helicopter Parenting Bad?

I’ve written a few posts now on helicopter parenting and how I have been trying to avoid being one. You can read them here:

Helicopter Mom Part 1

Helicopter Mom Part 2

But maybe we need to clarify the why behind these helicopter mom posts. Why is this a parenting style I am avoiding and trying to lean more toward independent kids? 

A helicopter parent is someone who stands over their children making every decision for them and directing their lives. A lot of the motive behind a helicopter parent is to prevent their children from experiencing failure or getting hurt. However, doing so can actually do the opposite. 

The side effects of being parented by a helicopter parent are depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, high stress, fear of failure, low self-confidence, and more. By never letting your child fail, you are sending the message that failure is not okay, therefore, bringing on all of the depression, stress, and anxiety that comes with the inevitable failure in life. This only grows more and more into adulthood. 

To see more about the side effects of a helicopter parent, check out this video. 

What does a helicopter parent look like in each stage of life? 

As a toddler, it’s a parent standing right behind your child as they climb a ladder, even putting their hands and feet in the exact places they need to go to find success. 

As a child, it looks like a parent changing their child’s teacher because they don’t seem to learn well with their current teacher. 

As a teenager, it’s a parent that chooses which friends their children can spend time with. 

As an adult, it looks like a parent that pushes certain colleges to attend (typically based on the closest location to home) and tells the child what the best area of study for them will be. 

How can you change your parenting style to be less helicopter parent? 

Step back and watch your child climb the ladder. Observe their method of movement and don’t step in unless absolutely necessary. Remember that a short tumble may be exactly what they need to learn the correct method for using the rungs. 

Let your child stay in the classroom of this teacher, and give them ways to learn with the style the teacher is using. Teach them how to work with different personality types, then pull them out of the classroom if matters seem to be worsening and you have tried multiple approaches. 

Have conversations with your child about the value of good friendships and what a lasting effect they can have in life. Teach them to identify good vs. bad friends and let them decipher their friend choices on their own. 

Ask your child what their goals for their adult life look like, see what their ambitions and dreams are. Have conversations about what college looks like and means to them, and help guide them to whichever school seems to be the best fit for them. 

By changing the way we interact and teach our children, it will lead to more independent and efficient leaders of tomorrow. 

Featured Photo: Kayla Wright

Swim Lessons Taught My Kids More Than Swimming

In the spirit of writing blog posts about independent children like I have been recently (you can read more of the posts here), I wanted to talk about one more way I’ve worked hard to give my kids independence and let them explore the world freely. 

This time, it was with swim lessons. I placed my children in ISR (infant swim rescue) lessons at the ages of 10 months for my son and 2.5 years old for my daughter. They were both able to self-rescue and swim by themselves in the water after a few weeks of lessons. Here are some of the educational benefits I’ve found from placing them in these lessons, beyond just swimming and floating.

They learned they can do hard things. It’s hard to learn something so scary and different, especially in an environment like a swimming pool where you can feel so vulnerable. But once they mastered it and felt more confident in the water, they both realized that they worked hard to accomplish something really hard, and that’s absolutely worth noting. I saw them be less fearful and more willing to try hard things later.

They gained confidence in themselves. Because they learned something hard, they grew in confidence. Not only in the pool, but in other activities and learning environments. 

They learned to problem solve. By practicing problem-solving in the water, I watched them apply it at the park on ladders and slides, at home in their play, and everywhere else they needed problem-solving skills. 

They gained respect for water. They didn’t just learn how to swim and go run into any body of water they saw. They learned that water can be dangerous and fun, all at the same time. They learned to respect the nature of water and the consequences that can come with playing in it. 

Giving my children the tools to be independent in the water without floaties or other swimming devices gave them more than just the ability to float on their back, it gave them multiple life lessons they will carry with them. It gave them another tool to grow into independent human beings, who are free to explore the world around them. 

Parenting And Teaching Strong- Willed And Independent Kids

Strong-willed children. Independent children. You know them, raise them, teach them, and love them. But man, it can be so hard. So hard. I know this because I have a strong-willed child myself. I’ve been brainstorming my favorite tried and true ways to help foster this independence in children, whether they are the strong-willed type or not. It will mostly be in a bullet point list so that this doesn’t turn into a lengthy post.  

  1. Don’t be a helicopter mom.
    • Read more about my experience being a helicopter mom with both of my kids.
  2. Give kid access where possible. Can you imagine living in a house where everything is out of reach and inaccessible? Because that’s how your kids can feel. It is freeing for them to have everyday things on their level to have access to. 
    • Access to their dishes 
    • Access to electronics, with boundaries. 
    • Helping make meals and snacks
    • Access to snacks/ food- again with boundaries. 
    • Books and toys at their level. 
  3. Think “what can I not do” 
    • Can your child wipe down their high chair after a meal? 
    • Sweep the floor with a dustpan and small brush? 
    • Put items away? 
    • Tip: Give them specific tasks, not big tasks. 
      • Example: “Can you put this pair of shoes in your closet?” instead of “Please clean up the front room.” Younger kids can get so overwhelmed by these bigger tasks! Break them down. It takes a lot more conversation and working with them, but doing this can eventually lead to, “Can you please clean up the front room?” 
  4. Basic daily tasks they can do by themselves. 
    • Getting dressed (clothes at their level)
    • Brushing teeth 
    • Using the bathroom
    • Opening snacks and drinks 
    • Preparing meals 
    • Getting buckled in the car (with supervision) 
    • Helping grab items off the shelves in grocery stores. 
    • Opening doors for self and others. 
  5. Remember that struggles are okay. It’s okay if your child doesn’t get it right the first time or becomes frustrated when they can’t do a task. In the words of Daniel Tiger, “Keep trying, you’ll get better!” Always keep in mind that they are only (this many) years old. For example, when my daughter can’t get her shoes on by herself, I remind myself, “It’s okay, she’s only 3 years old.” to keep it in perspective that I shouldn’t be expecting her to act older than she is. 
  6. Remember that messes are okay. Learning and growing are messy and hard! Everything can and will be cleaned up. And I firmly believe that kids learn the responsibility of being clean when they are given the chance to get messy and clean up. It’s important that they are expected to clean up too! Even if it’s just a small portion of the mess. 
  7. Remember that getting hurt is okay if it’s not serious. A short tumble off the bottom step of a ladder, a little slip in the grass, and other small ways kids get hurt are how they learn to move their bodies without getting hurt someday. 
  8. Remember that you are the parent/ teacher and you have the right to any boundaries you want to set. Constantly be evaluating your boundaries to see if you need to give more or less freedom. Do what is comfortable for you! 
    • Ex: It’s okay for you to have this cupboard of dishes. But it’s not okay for you to pull out all of these dishes and spread them all over the kitchen. 
    • Ex: It’s okay for you to play on your tablet or watch TV, but I will set a timer for one hour and that’s all the screen time you can get for the day. 
    • Ex: It’s okay for you to play in the backyard by yourself, but I will close the gates so it is locked in and leave the window open so I can hear you if you need me. 
    • Ex: You can buckle yourself into the car by yourself, but I will check it when you’re done to make sure you are safe. 
    • Ex: You can ride your bike on the sidewalk by yourself, but you cannot go past that tree down the road, it is too far. 
  1. The power of choice is your BEST FRIEND when it comes to an independent-minded child. You choose what they can have, but the ultimate choice is in their hands. 
    • Ex: Do you want a PB&J for lunch or a ham sandwich? 
    • Ex: Do you want to go down the slide first, or swing first? 
    • Ex: You can wear a yellow shirt or a green shirt today, which shirt do you want? 
    • Ex: We need to go to Walmart and Costco today, which one should we go to first? 
    • Ex: Do you want to walk to the car, or do you want me to carry you? 
  2. Mantras you can teach your child. Read more about our experience using them.
    • “I can do it if I try!”
    • “I can do it if I practice!”
  3. Mantra for yourself. 
    • “Go for good enough” – How your child performs doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough. 
  4. Conversations/ questions to have with your strong-willed child about to attempt something or just have attempted something. These conversations can lead to good, independent decision making. 
    • “Why do you think that happened?”
    • “Show me how you like to do it!”
    • “What would happen if you did it this way?”
    • “What are all of our options?”  

What else would you add to this list? Bookmark it to save for later! This much information can be overwhelming to remember all at once, so keep this post tucked away and pull it out when you find yourself frustrated with your strong-willed child. 

Early Childhood Resources All In One Place!

Hi friends! A lot of my posts lately have been focused on early childhood and how we can foster this education as parents and teachers. It’s been my focus simply because it’s my daily life right now. I spend the majority of my day fostering the learning of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so naturally, it’s where my thoughts have been centered.

Because I have been throwing this content at you so much, I felt like it needed a place where it’s all corralled for you for easier searching. Lo and behold! My early childhood page!

You can find the link to this new page here!

Featured on the page are sensory bin lists, tips, and recipes. Some thoughts on raising independent kids. Really great articles on PLAY. And bonus material on emotions in kids and using Myers- Briggs and Enneagram to understand your child better.

This list and page will be ever growing as I continue to create new content in this scope of ideas, so check back later for more articles. You can find this new page on our top banner under “blog”.

The Importance Of Disagreeing In Front Of Children

I want to preface this post with the statement that when I planned to write about the subject that has been on my mind a lot recently, I absolutely did not mean for it to be written and published the week of our 2020 presidential election. However, it is incredibly fitting and I am glad it worked out this way. 

Is disagreeing good for kids? Studies show, YES, it is! Teaching kids to disagree, debate, and solve conflicts in a decent manner can be incredibly helpful to them for the rest of their lives. This video shows the idea perfectly. 

“Most great ideas are born out of disagreement.”

“Frame conflict as debate and to voice those disagreements in a thoughtful way.”

We as parents, educators, and influencers of children, in general, have a duty to show our younger generation the graceful art of debating and solution finding in a civilized manner. And right now is the best time to do that.

Featured Image: Pexels.com

Flashback To Helicopter Mom

A year ago I wrote a post about me being a helicopter mom with my daughter while she attempted to climb up the ladder of our playset in our backyard. This summer I had flashbacks to this article I posted when my son attempted the same thing. However, he is a year younger than she was at the time! 

My son just turned a year old and isn’t walking yet, but climbs like it’s nobody’s business. He started reaching up high to grab rungs on the ladder, ready to scale it as fast as his little body would let him. As I rushed over and picked him up, the words from my past post rang in my head. 

““Be careful! Be careful!” I kept telling her. All while her feet never left the ground.”

His two feet were firmly planted on the ground as I picked him up in the worry of him falling and failing. I hadn’t even given him a chance to try

Realizing my mistake, I set him down and let him try again. He fumbled through the process of climbing, sometimes not knowing where his hands or feet would go. I would step in and guide him through this, then step back and watch him figure out the rest. Eventually, he did it! He made it to the top and beamed with pride over his accomplishment. (Cover photo of him satisfied with success.)

Almost to success! I was feeling comfortable enough in his ability to step back and take a picture.

A few takeaways I learned from this: 

  1. We may figure things out as a parent or as a teacher, but we continually need to learn and grow and be reminded of those things. Just because I had the helicopter moment with my daughter a year previously did not automatically help me to know how to handle the exact same situation with my son. I needed the reminder. 
  2. The same can apply to our kids- they need reminders and to be told again, and again, and again. And we need to give them grace for this. 

What is something with your students you have to relearn again every year? How do you let your kids fail to find success?