Risky play is a term that I’ve heard a lot since studying early years and being involved with environmental education. Providing children with opportunities that expose them to risks can build their confidence, allow them to test their physical and emotional limits, develop their problem solving skills and help build up social skills. It really is something positive we should be encouraging our children to be involved in. However, as a Mum, even one who is fully on board with the idea of ‘risky play’, the world of risky play can be a scary one. I constantly have to remind myself not to jump in just before he falls over or not to step in and offer him help before he has really had the chance to try for himself. Your basic instinct as a Mum is to step in wherever your child might need you. Today was one of those days where I had to remind myself a few times to simply back off.
With the recent rain providing the perfect opportunity and a #wildtime activity recipe from Play England we headed to our local country park in search of a mudslide. The previous day I had walked round the park with a friend scoping out possibilities and it wasn’t long before we found one with potential. It wasn’t too big and there was a lovely little narrow trail leading to the top that would seem like a big adventure for someone of such small stature. Little Man currently enjoys slides very much particularly walking up them rather than sliding down them so it was no surprise when instead of wanting to slide down with Mummy
he was far more interested in climbing up said slippery slope. This, however, did provide a few heart in mouth moments for me. The slope was indeed slippery, it had to be to make any sort of slide, and wearing wellies made getting a grip even more difficult.
Needless to say Little Man did end up flat on his face a few times but he is a determined soul and after I realised he had more control than I gave him credit for, I left him to it and he was up there in no time. I then had a job scrambling after him, I think it took me longer to get up the slope than it did him and then I had fun trying to keep up with him before he disappeared out of site!
Little Man soon got bored with the slope and moved on to some woodland stairs, somewhere I would normally offer him my help but I stepped back for a moment and let him get on with it. He handled the stairs brilliantly, carefully taking his time and congratulating himself when he got to the bottom without tripping. I have to admit I was a very proud Mummy who learnt a few lessons about stepping back and letting my Little Man take some important risks. He is still learning about his body and how it moves but he is also incredibly aware of his capabilities and his limitations. When I watch him it makes me realise just howcareful and capable he actually is.
So this month I challenge you to take a step back and let your little one take a risk or too, stepping in only when you are really needed. If you do decide to have a go at mudsliding then my top tip is to put their waterproofs on! As you can probably see from the pics, Little Man ended up with a very very muddy bum. Why I didn’t put them on I have no idea, it would have saved me a lot of washing!
Leila writes a personal, nature inspired blog at Mud Marvellous Mud. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and writes about her son’s experiences as they explore together. She is trained to Forest Schools and Beach Schools level 3 and is currently studying for an Open University Open Degree.
Follow her on twitter @MudpieMama or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MudMudMarvellousMud