3 Tips for Encouraging Safe Exploration

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3 Tips for Letting Your Child Safely Explore
Against my better judgment, I find myself repeating the warning, “Be careful.” I bet you can guess how my daughter responded. “Mommmm. I KNOW.”

As parents of young children, one of our main goals is to have our kids  grow-up to be safe and responsible teens. Last week my daughter said her teacher told her, “Practice makes permanent.” How true.

We need to give our children the opportunity to practice independently exploring the world.

The question is, how do we let them experience their environment safely?

Find a “U” and you will help your child find themselves. Start taking note of your surroundings. Your assignment for the week is to start looking for environments that are naturally enclosed and have a single entrance. This type of “U” environment allows your little one the ability to roam freely while you sit and watch at the exit to ensure they are safe.

Find a kid-friendly “U” location and use these 3 steps to practice independent exploration:

  • Set a general guideline: Use a bit of Love & Logic on arrival and explain, “You’re welcome to be here as long as we don’t have any problems.” Leave the statement as general to cover and mishaps that might occur. Be prepared to leave without additional warnings if things get out of hand.
  • Offer the opportunity: Plant yourself close to the exit and ask, “Do you want to sit with me or explore today?”
  • Assess what your child needs: As your child starts to roam, pull out a magazine and casually flip through as you quietly watch. Inevitably, they will visually check-in to see if you are watching. If he needs security, smile. If she needs freedom, pretend to be reading. Try to keep your interactions minimal.

Eat an appleBe prepared for the situation to go in either direction. Your son might be so proud of his independence that he acts like an angel. Your daughter might see the freedom as an opportunity to test boundaries and act up.  Accept either scenario with a smile. If things go sour simply sing, “Uh Oh, so sad. We’ll try this again another time.”

Remember practice makes permanent.  The statement is true for parents as well. If the practice session or location bombs, don’t give up!

Here are a few ways to tweak the situation:

  • Adjust the time of day. Our best adventures happen around 10am. The girls are fed, the temp is cool, we have energy and we are pumped about leaving the house.
  • Bring snacks. Sometimes kids just need an excuse to take a break. Always have snacks on hand! Our three favorites are: apples, cheese sticks and zfruit ropes.
  • Bite your tongue. Resist the urge to give directives.  Remember this is about giving your child the freedom to explore and own the situation.
  • Change your location. Make sure you are comfortable with the location. Your child can sense your anxiety. It might take a while to find the perfect spot!

CLIF KidDo you have a favorite place to “hang” with your little one? Let’s chat!

Join me and two other CLIF Kid ZMoms – registered dietitian and author Frances Largeman-Roth & Steph Morgan  of Modern Parents, Messy KidsWednesday, November 14 at 11am CST. We’ll be talking about ways parents can nourish healthy, balanced kids through nutrition, activity, creativity, and exploration.

You’ll have the opportunity to swap stories; ask questions; and share tips on raising confident, capable, creative kids. RSVP on the CLIF Kid Facebook page today. Will you join the conversation?

PS: To help you get started on your homework, below are some of my favorite kid-friendly “U” locations:

  • Let your child exploreLocal Botanic Gardens: Many public botanical gardens will have at least one landscape that is enclosed. The photo above was taken at The Chicago Botanic Gardens.
  • Cafes & Coffee Shops:  Many of the Starbucks in my area are shaped like an L. Our family takes advantage of the nooks they present. Enclosed outdoor seating areas at restaurants during down periods of the day are wonderful for families.
  • Children’s Museums: Many children’s museums are divided into enclosed sections.
  • Libraries: Many libraries or public buildings will have an outdoor break area. Keep your eyes open for picnic tables and natural borders.
  • Playgrounds: Many local malls have an enclosed playground for children. Keep your eyes open for outside parks which are fenced in too.
  • State and County Parks: Many have picnic areas naturally enclosed by a tree line.

Little Girls Running

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  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.ruppel.5 Heather Ruppel

    One of my favorite sayings…practice makes permanent, and it goes with my other fave…2000 times in context! Little sayings help remind me everyday they are learning and it will take time.