Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Play

Notes from Sweden and question of the day:
Do your children have the same freedom to play that you had as a kid?

Last week, I heard an interview that I couldn't stop thinking about, The Overprotected Kid, by Hanna Rosin and wanted to share it with you. Rosin discussed free play and how we protect our children.


She shared a short film, above, of an "adventure playground" in England that looks more like a junkyard than playground called, The Land, which became popular in the 1940s, as a result of the efforts of Lady Marjory Allen of Hurtwood, a landscape architect and children’s advocate. Allen was disappointed by what she described in a documentary as “asphalt square” playgrounds with “a few pieces of mechanical equipment" and wanted parks, instead, with loose parts that kids could move around and create their own makeshift structures that encouraged a “free and permissive atmosphere” with as little adult supervision as possible. The idea was that kids should face what to them seem like “really dangerous risks” and then conquer them alone. That, she said, is what builds self-confidence and courage.

Living in Sweden, the juxtaposition of cultures in our everyday life can be both entertaining, as well as emotionally complex and thought provoking. The Swedish attitude to go outside 365 days of the year --- rain, sleet or snow --- is a concept I embrace (here | here,) and at the same time, my idea of what it is to be a protective parent can be challenged.  Parks like "the Land" don't exist here but boundaries can be written differently.

One night, recently, a Spring storm brought so much snow that I let the kids extend their bedtimes so that they could hustle outside to sled on our lawn before bedtime --- in the dark. I felt kind of bold and then, realized that I would quickly have a new decision to make: do I or do I not, let them join many neighbors kids sled on the road, past our house that is a steep slope and one that ends with an intersection? Would you let your children play in the street? What about with fire, which is a part of an upcoming holiday. Living in another culture can turn ideas upside down:

Upcoming Valborg will mean that neighborhoods will gather to make huge bonfires and small children run -- frolic -- around the edges, even adding twigs without close adult supervision.

- Independent Travel: On average, 9 year old kids commonly navigating the city with buses and subways.

Tools: I'll never forget the first time that we took our oldest son, who was 2 at the time, to the Pippi Longstocking Museum in town. Rather than finding the expected aisels for painting in the art room, we found, instead an activity room with toddlers and pre-schoolers wielding real saws, hammers and nails in a child sized construction area.

Fire, child abductions and power tool mishaps are not headliners in Swedish newspaper or, frankly, conversations that I've had when standing around in the playground.  I wish I had a match for all of the facts Rosin covered about Sweden. I'm finding that definitions for what it means to be overprotective can be like apples and oranges and that had me thinking of you. Do your children have the same freedom when playing that you had as a kid? Would you let them do the things you did? Do you let your pre-schoolers play with power tools and hammers and nails? Although everyone isn't interested in handicrafts in Sweden, I do think adults are incredibly handy with their homes and tools. Does this come from the tradition to use every day tools and is the access to tools part of the reason? Do kids play in the streets near you? Are all cultures becoming more protective? Does this affect creativity? How do you factor play in childhood development? I'm so curious and would love to hear from you!

Happy Day!

Something you might like.
Valborg
Kid Tested Sweden
Parenting and humor
Be

7 comments:

  1. I read that article recently too, so thought provoking! I try to do things incrementally (I let our 6 year old cross our quiet street occasionally) but am naturally a protective parent. I wonder too if it depends on where you live. A home in the country would have more land to roam, we have a small city lot.

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    1. Julia, it's so nice to hear from you. I think that you raised a good point and I agree that location makes a big difference. And with that, I think that there are city skills and country skills that the kids can pick up in both places. So nice to hear from you!

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  2. Oh, Willow, I got myself in trouble with this one last time we were in the states! I let my daughters do something {that they regularly do in Ghana} without giving it a second thought. A "helpful" onlooker called the police on me! I couldn't believe that a policeman was there and seemed to think I'd done some horrible thing. He finally said, "Where do you live?" I told him I lived in Africa, and he just shook his head and told me never to do that again. My kids were quite confused, and I was quite shaken. When I got back to my husband, he couldn't figure out what the fuss was.....then we told his sister and brother-in-law thinking they'd agree with us. They didn't. They kept telling us how "dangerous" what we'd done was! Truly a reverse culture shock moment!

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    1. Mrs. John, thank you so much for sharing such a personal experience and I can just about imagine the reverse culture shock moment due to living in two such far away cultures! Even though Sweden is a western country, I tend to feel that I am much more cautious, protective and watchful then Swedes. Then, on the flip side, I, too, have had moments when I've returned to the US where I feel that I've done something considered far from the norm back home -- and crazy. There is so much more to walking a cultural divide than sampling new foods and adopting a to a new climate! ... Thank you so much for sharing!

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  3. Ive been to sweden and other europe countries and i love the culture! England has so many rules and regulations in schools that running around in playground in schools are monitored! Everyone is scared as the sueing culture is big. We dont learn to use are hand i.e wood work , textiles till 13. When i have children i hope im living abroad! Alisha

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    1. Alisha,Thank you so much to take the time to comment! Swedes are a very hands-on culture. It's so interesting -- I love a mix of it all and feel very lucky to have the combination of our 3 immediate family cultures -- all so different in many ways although appearing similar on the surface. Great to hear from you!

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  4. Hi Willow, I grew up in different countries as a child (Holland, which is my home, England and in the U.S.). Thinking about the subject, differences come to mind and I remember the more protective (we thought: 'fussy' and 'panicky') attitude in the U.S.
    As a parent I'd like to think I give my children room to explore, but I know some do find me a bit protective. I think it's also a very personal thing, besides cultural differences.
    As for children running around bonfires...that's something we do on Easter here. Of course I keep a good eye on my kids, but I'd say it's also important for them to experience these things for themselves. A friend recently said that children should be able to develop their own instincts, so they will be able to judge situations (dangerous/safe) for themselves. I think that makes a lot of sense.

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I'm so happy to meet you here! Thank you for taking the time to comment.