Have you had a chance to read the article "The Overprotected Kid" by Hanna Rosin? I have stumbled across references to it on several blogs (including A Cup of Jo). It is an excellent read about how kid's play has shifted in the last 30 years.
How we used to roam free and how now kids are watched 24-7 with very little time for exploratory play, or play that allows children to take risks. It is a fascinating article. Especially when I think back to my own childhood (and the stories my mom would tell us of her childhood)...
When I was in my 20s, I started sharing my risk-taking stories with my parents and I think they were pretty surprised (as I am sure my grandparents were surprised when they learned that my mom and her brothers had floated down the river by their home, amongst other things).
Some of my unsupervised, risk-taking behavior as a child include:
Hermitage, Tennessee (Ages 7-8)
- Climbing out of the window of my house (onto the roof)
- Roller skating down a paved hill in my neighborhood.
- Riding down the paved hill in my little red wagon
- Baking cookies and selling them door-to-door in our neighborhood
- Sneaking out of my friends house (by climbing out a window and jumping off the roof)
- Floating in the Saint Lawrence River that was close to my house, at night
- Climbing onto the top of my elementary school building (on the weekend)
- Reading in the tops of trees
- Canoeing down a creek behind a friend's house
- Roaming in the woods next to our home
- Climbing onto the roof of the shed in our back yard to read books
- Roller skating around the court square (after 10pm)
- Jumping off the tall cliffs at Heber Springs
As a child of the 80s, I experienced a lot of the unsupervised play that this article talks about and I believe it has helped shape me as an adult. Now that I am a parent, I wrestle with wanting to supervise my child to the nth degree (I actually wrote about this concern right before Jack was born).
Jack is two-and-a-hafl, so I have plenty of time to (hopefully) learn how to balance my fear and desire to keep him safe with my desire for him to learn independence, creativity, problem solving and risk taking.
As the article states, all of the strict playground modifications and parental monitoring hasn't really reduced injuries, so we have to weigh the risks and let the kids explore a bit more... Besides, our current home is surrounded by tall rocks and trees and I'm pretty sure there will come a day when I have little control over what Jack climbs.