By Tracey Black, REDBOOK
Lately, I've been hearing things around the playground that I find, well, shocking. For one, there are a lot of parents who tell their kids to go down the slide the "right way." What does that mean? It means kids can only go down the slide sitting down. They can't climb up the slide or go down it head-first. Some kids can't even go down train-style (as my kids like to call it) linking their legs around the waist of another kid down the slide.
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I understand the concern for safety and rules at the playground. If my kid climbs up the slide when there's already someone sliding down, then of course that's not okay. I talk to my kids about looking out for others, especially younger kids, and to be courteous. But if no one is on the slide, I don't see the problem with kids climbing up. The same goes for a steep slide-I wouldn't let my kids slide down head-first (they might just land on it at the bottom)-but if the slide isn't steep, I don't see anything wrong with letting them slide down that way.
I also hear some parents tell the kids not to climb the outside of a play structure. They want their kids to climb only in the designated climbing areas, like a rock climbing wall. Or worse yet, I hear a few parents tell their kids not to climb the trees at the park. When did climbing trees become taboo? And aren't play structures built for climbing? Honestly, I'm impressed when my kids figure out how to climb on the outside of a covered slide or a tree with high branches-and I can see how proud they are of themselves for figuring it out on their own.
Then, it occurred to me-are we taking the fun out of being a kid?
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I have fond memories of climbing trees, running amok at the playground, and walking around the neighborhood to find other kids to play with. I became more independent and gained a lot of confidence by doing things on my own.
And, yes, I do let my five and seven-year old kids play outside with the neighborhood kids. I let them walk five houses down the street-sometimes I watch them from my house; other times, I let them go on their own. I text my neighbor to let her know my kids are coming over, and she returns the favor when they come back home. This way I know where my kids are, but I also give them a little freedom and let them experience the joy of playing with their friends at the same time.
While I think some rules need to be obeyed-like never cross the street alone-I think some rules-like don't climb the trees-are meant to be broken.
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Where do you stand?
Tracey Black is the author of Don't Mess with Mama, a blog about parenting, work-life balance, healthy eating, and life as a far from perfect mom. She has three boys under the age of eight, and lives in San Diego, California.More from REDBOOK:
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