Letting my kids explore

Trying to figure out the bike pump

Sometimes I find that my first response to the things that my kids want to do can be very reactionary. Oliver especially is the most curious little person I know and he often gets into things that are every day use items. He has been known to grab and play with batteries, screwdrivers, yard sticks, scissors, paper clips, lids, plates, cups, air pumps, tripods, wheels and the strange list goes on. Of course both of my kids like to play with toys but they often grab strange objects that are things I use every day. I actually had to put a stop to them taking my cooking and baking items because they often come up missing and it’s very irritating to want to bust out the corn on the cob holders a few times a year only to find that they went missing during a game of ‘hunting with small spears’.

As a tidy perfectionist that likes to keep the home in order (if it gets too cluttery I start to feel boxed in and stressed out) my first response is to say “No, put that back” every time they get into something that I’d actually like to use some day. It’s not really a toy and if it gets broken or goes missing I won’t be too happy. Also, I don’t really want it out because the house starts to get messy. That’s definitely my first response. I find myself reacting out of habit when they get into something that’s really not ‘theirs’.

Over the past few years I’ve had to realize that Oliver, especially, is so very curious and it’s easy to squelch his desire to learn. So I had to make a conscious decision to stop my first response and ask myself, “Is this really that big of a deal? Can they really break it? Can it be put back? What are they using it for?” It’s helped me to calm down (mellow out) and I’m sure it’s taught them a lot about inventing and exploring. Today, for example, I found Oliver grabbing Matt’s bike-tire pump and putting it down his pants then pumping air into his pants. Mmmmmkay…. As an adult I think that would be a very weird and inappropriate thing to do, but as a five-year old I can reason that he’s really just having fun. He’s not trying to be gross or lewd. So I got through my first response and just let him play. Later he started to work out what all of this air can do so he went on a hunt for items to blow up. He took out an apple juice jug from the recycling and grabbed the lid to use as a launch pad. When I saw it I just wanted him to put it away (recycling, old juice dripping = mess). But it really was quite amazing what he was doing. So I controlled the mess and just let him explore and he figured out how to blast things into the air using huge gusts of air. My little scientist.

It’s not easy for me to let my kids get into things. I like stuff in its place. I also don’t really like them touching things that aren’t really theirs or that aren’t even toys but I do think it’s good to allow kids amounts of freedom to explore and discover. I have been known to let my kids get bored enough so that they begin to discover, invent and use their imagination. That too isn’t always easy (kids complain when they get bored, or they get naughty) but it’s healthy and it’s organic. They seem to be wired to create and I have to keep giving them space to do that. So on to another day where I have to hold back my initial reactions and just let them be kids.

Using one cheese grater for a sword and one for a shield. He was a knight!


7 thoughts on “Letting my kids explore

  1. Hmmm, good stuff there. I have been reading a bit about “unschooling”, Waldorf, Montessori, self-directed learning, etc. They all have this same theme you are writing about in common. I feel rather overwhelmed by the doing of it, but oh so inspired by the notion of it! But your thoughts here are a healthy reminder to me in the midst of some very long and trying days at home with my kids. Thanks, and keep it up- your kids are bright and lovely!

    • Cool Lori. It’s not always easy for me either but as I let go it has gotten easier to let them play and discover. It’s more common now to just let go, relax and watch them go. It sure wasn’t easy as first. Baby steps

  2. Love what he was up to with the bike pump – brilliant! My kids are right now banging away with hammers and nails and scraps of wood – by themselves unsupervised while Koa naps. Yes, I’ve relaxed quite a bit too, through much of the same process. I totally, totally relate to this post 100%, I’m right there with you – especially with clutter and mess – I get that same feeling, too. Great thoughts!

    • Oh Leslie, with four boys I can only imagine. I have to say the more moms of boys only that I meet, I am starting to really adore. They seem to be the most relaxed and understanding moms out there. I’m trying to let go of my controlled environment more and more.

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