What to do to keep your child safe in a playground?

It is so easy to get bogged down when the society keeps giving constant onslaught of what our children should or should not be doing or else they will be left behind. What our children really don’t require is worksheets, tests, colouring books, educational games, videos on nursery rhymes, games on laptops or any other so-called “educational applications”.

What they really require is unstructured, unconditional free play time, what they require is time to get bored, what they require is to play freely in the outdoors.

Playing outdoors, playing with sand, playing with water in an independent environment in the company of kind adults engaged in sensitive observation is the need of the hour for the overall sensory development of any child.

A playground, a park are facilities that are freely available in any city. Parents should explore these facilities rather than taking children to consumerist malls, gaming zones in malls. The more our children play outdoors, the more they are getting a rich opportunity to connect with nature, outdoors is such a powerful tool that is available to us to raise intuitively intelligent adults.

While free play itself is vital, an outdoor playground is the only place that contribute towards the overall sensory development of any child. To understand the relevance of playgrounds for the optimal sensory development of children, please refer to this blog.  How to design playgrounds for optimal sensory development? It is a good read to understand how the different sensory skills are developed through playing with various playground equipment.

Let us now commence our journey towards discussing a more beneficial, a more conscious, a more meaningful process of connecting with our child in a playground set-up.

1. GIVE SPACE

It is not our right to intrude in the personal space and the internal mental thoughts of a child. When we take our children to a park, the best thing that we can do is step back and observe our children. Some kids might instantly start climbing the hill or climbing the stairs leading to the slide. While, a few other kids might just stand there looking at the joyful kids playing.

To an uninformed parent, this might feel like the ‘child is not playing’; or ‘child is not enjoying or perhaps the child doesn’t like going to the park.

However, these impressions that we make about children are based on our perceptions.

The child is there observing, absorbing, processing the new surroundings, the energies, thinking on where he/she wants to play? What does he/she really want to do?

What looks to an adult as a child not doing anything is in-fact a child who is keenly observing the bright colours of the playground equipment, the child is in-fact learning by observing how the older kids are climbing the stairs or how the toddlers are swinging? The child is In-fact analyzing the risk associated with each playground equipment and making mental notes about which equipment he/ she would want to play with.

For an analogy, let us compare a child’s first visit to a playground to what happens when an adult visits a bungee jumping site. How many adults would straight away wear the harness and take the jump? I bet on a ratio of 100, perhaps 1 adult might do that. Adults would normally scan through the area, observe others taking the jump, muster the courage, visualize themselves taking the plunge and then finally decide on taking the plunge or perhaps decide not to take the plunge.

So, now as an adult, when you take your child to a playground, put yourself in the shoes of your child. Empathize. Imagine yourself at a bungee jumping site.

2. MINIMAL INTERVENTION

Interrupting the child and not giving the child the space to breathe leads to the joy slowly fading away and the enthusiasm of playing disappearing.

Intervene only when it is inevitable, when there is a real safety issue involved as opposed to perceivedsafety issue.

For instance, there is a slight danger if a 2-year-old decides to stand up while sliding. I have often seen that many toddlers chose to climb the slide from the opposite direction, to my observant eyes, I have never seen a child hurt himself/ herself by trying to climb from the opposite side. What I have observed is that  in due course the child realizes himself/ herself that it is better idea to take the steps instead. What I have also seen is that the child coming from the opposite direction would usually not slide down till the child coming from the other side has not stepped down. When adults step back, kids learn to take turns, learn to share, learn to be patient and above all learn to trust themselves.

So, intervene only and only when it is “absolutely necessary”.

A parent’s urge to kiss/ hug their child; a child’s favourite uncle  or a favourite friend or a child’s favourite bird flying above does not act as a warrant to interrupt. Trust that your child will any ways in due course spot their favourite uncle/ friend/ bird. Unless there is a “serious” safety issue involved, there is no need to interrupt the child.

It is definitely not in our child’s interests to be physically lifted and put on different playground equipment based on the likes and dislikes of parents.  As parents, it is our duty to take steps that are in the best interest of our child. So, have “trust” that your child is enjoying, “trust” that your child is learning, “trust” that your child’s senses are getting developed even when it might look as if the child is not doing anything. The child is “thinking”. Give your child the space that he/ she deserves.

A really small child might look at the parent for approval, all a parent needs to do is acknowledge the child. The adult needs to be present with the child and yet not intervene. This process is similar to an adult getting absorbed in admiring a tree or sea waves. The process of silent observation is akin to observing the leaves fluttering or observing the sea waves roaring to the shore.

At this point, I would like you to answer these questions:

  • Should a parent interrupt their child’s sequential arrangement of thoughts? (By lifting her and putting her on a slide or showing her or comparing what other kids are doing)

Or

  • Should a parent trust the ability of a child to decide on which playground equipment the child wants to play?

3. RAISE INDEPENDENT THINKERS

It is okay and and in reality a  cherished moment if the child plays with just one equipment for the whole evening or chooses not to play with any equipment. Depending on the personality trait of a child, the child will take a day, a week or a month to decide to play with a different playground equipment.

I will take you through my journey with my daughter. She would initially just play with sand at the playground. After, almost 5 visits, she decided to play with the toy car at the playground. After, a few days, she commenced to play with the merry-go-round. On one of the visits, she chose to play with the puppies instead of the playground equipment. As a parent, let us not attach any predetermined notions on how the child should play at a playground. Let the child lead the way and the parent should just follow her lead with trust and conviction.

After almost 20 visits, she chose to play with a tunnel. The beauty of this process is when she decided to enter the tunnel, she was able to hop on and hop down the tunnel all by herself without any support. She is yet to explore the other playground equipment, but, I have the trust in her that when she is convinced of her own physical strength, she will choose to use slides, the see-saw and the rest of the playground equipment

The inner joy and lessons learnt from being able to independently decide and successfully execute a thought are immense. She is building her confidence, her concentration and independent thinking skills. Life skills that shall support her throughout her entire life. If you wish your child to excel at one particular subject at academics or to triumph at a particular sport or any activity, a playground is the perfect place to build the right foundation.

4. ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO FALL DOWN

Most of the playgrounds are designed keeping in mind the safety of the children. Every park will normally have sand, grass or soft play-mats as a base to create a safety net for children. To my mind, children have an inherent mechanism to judge the degree of risk involved. Children should be encouraged and supported to take age-appropriate risks.

It is typically seen that parents intervene, parents continue to demonstrate what equipment to play with, how to play with it, what to do, what not to do?

Broken spirit.jpg

“Don’t go so fast on swing, you ‘will’ fall down”- When we say something negative, we have in a way manifested  a wrong intention. So, choose your words carefully. Ideally, trust the child to understand his/ her strengths and if you chose to say something, Be careful is all you could say. Avoid making statements that might either be negative or instill an element of fear. These unnecessary interventions take away the joy from playing.

In some cases, some wealthy families will ask their nannies to be with the child. So, the nanny will constantly hover around the child keeping a hand behind the child (so as to hold the child and prevent the child from falling). Falling down and rising up is an integral part of growing up. A child who has never fallen down will grow up to be an adult who cannot accept failures.  An adult who cannot handle emotions of failure is likely to enter a state of depression or in some cases suicide.

However, let us understand what messages are going out to the child when parents keep worrying about their physical safety even at a playground.

When we intervene, these are the messages that go out to the child:

  1. ‘I am incapable of making independent decisions’
  2. ‘The world is not a safe place to play’
  3. ‘My decisions are not important’
  4. ‘It is not okay to fall’
  5. ‘Adults have no confidence in me’

When we keep worrying about a child playing with sensory appropriate playground equipment in a relatively safe environment, we forbid ourselves from nurturing a parent-child relationship based on trust and open communication. When we constantly protect our children and worry about the physical safety of the child, we are building a relationship based on fear. In our attempts to protect the child from any physical harm,  we let the child get harmed from within. Physical harm can be repaired with bandages, would we as parents ever be be able to repair the psychological and emotional harm done to the child through meaningless interventions?

So, the next time, you visit a playground, relax a little, give the child’s nanny a break too, let your child play independently. You can observe what your child is doing, how is your child playing, learn from your child.  We need to shift our perspective from I have to teach everything to my child’ to ‘I have to learn everything from my child’. Do read my blog on My learning journey as a parent to get an insight on my progress as a parent.

5. NO ‘SELFIES’ PLEASE…

In the world of social media, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, it has all come down to clicking those perfect pictures.

We have forgotten the magic of enjoying the moment and our focus has shifted from finding inner happiness to pretentious display. Does every moment of your child’s life need to be captured on camera? Does every moment of your child’s life need to go on social media?

As parents, we need to focus on instilling in our children the right values, the right ethos. Do we fully understand what this generation will grow up to become? A generation that will grow up to give more importance to selfies is likely to grow up to be narcissists. Imagine a world filled with narcissists with no love and compassion for fellow human beings. Imagine a world where friendships are harnessed for social media platforms and there are no real feelings? My heart cries when I see parents intervene, specially to click pictures. When a child is climbing the stairs leading to the slide, the child is doing it with a lot of concentration, all the focus of the child is on safely climbing these stairs without skipping a step.  It is dangerous to intervene and that too so that we can take a picture of the child.

If this is not enough, I often find parents marching orders to kids to dance or to smile to jump for them to be able to take Instagram perfect pictures. Ever wondered what the child feels? If you really wish to click pictures, click natural pictures from a safe distance. These natural clicks would speak a thousand words and create memories to last a lifetime.

Not all teachings have to come on the same day, not all moments need to be captured on camera. The most beautiful moments can be experienced when we observe in mock silence and let children lead the way.

Let kids play freely!

Keep the joy of playing alive!

Disclaimer- The blog is an expression to advocate the rights of every child for free play and outdoor play. Kindly note that, neither the author nor the website are responsible if any unwanted accidents happen owing to poor maintenance of playground equipment.

Author: Ishani

Ishani Shah-Verdia is a mother of a world-schooler, facilitator, an advocate for children's rights, believer in alternative philosophies and a traveler.

Stage 1 – Weaving pearls of wisdom to connect with the beautiful baby inside you

pregnant-woman-1512961_640Congratulations! So, you have seen the two pink lines and you are feeling elated, happy, excited, overwhelmed, scared, responsible. You might be experiencing very strong emotions, the reality might not have sunk in as yet. So, now, what do we do next?

I would love to share what I did when I commenced my journey of motherhood. I started talking to my baby, the little human being that had come to me. This might feel weird to a few mothers and very natural to a few other. However, once we are able to shift our mindset, we as human beings rise to a higher level of consciousness.

I read these eloquent lines somewhere on the Internet and these lines resonated with me on a much deeper level since it fully encapsulates our feelings as mothers.

When someone is expecting, she is not “expecting a child” she already has one. She is not “going to be a mother” she already is a mother. The baby is not “on the way” the baby has already arrived.  If we are going to change the way society treats unborn children, “we have to change the way we talk about them”.  

And, let me just add, we will have to shift our perspective on how we perceive unborn children.

My very good friend and the founder our community, Jayprakash Velu (better known as Velu) has spent years researching the origin of the journey of the soul.  He has spoken to Siddha gurus, ayurvedic practitioners, midwives, holistic healers and from years of his dialogues with these noble souls and deep meditation, he has some very delicate and beautiful information to share with us about the journey of a soul.  I wouldn’t want you to shift your beliefs based on your religious opinion, I would instead like to invite you to delve into understanding the journey of the soul and it’s emotional well-being with me so that we can co-learn together.

From Velu’s learnings, “we have come to understand that the soul always comes from a different dimension, from the sky. It travels to the ground, and then enters the soil, later into the father’s food three months before the act of conception. If the conception happens, it enters the body of the mother. In next few days, it is the nature in combination with their karma, that decides to start the process or not.”  

Our ancient scriptures, many alternative education philosophers believe that the soul chooses the life, the soul has chosen you to be his/ her caretaker/ parent/ mother-father.  The child is ours, yes, but the soul belongs to the world and the soul has come to this world with a purpose.

It doesn’t matter which religion we belong to, the soul is at the crux of human life.

With this understanding, we will be ready to stretch our horizon and look beyond the tiny little dot that we might be able to see on the sonography monitor. Now, what you see is the physical form but what a mother experience is a spiritual form, it is the true form. Being true to this understanding, a mother should commence talking to the child in her womb from the start.

“Eat right, eat healthy, take care of yourself” is the advice that you will get from your family, friends, and doctors. Yes, that is very important. But, what we are going to talk about is how do we as mothers nurture a beautiful relationship with our children while building a healthy emotional state for your child.  

WHY? There is an old saying which says “Precaution is better than cure”. In today’s modern times, we are blessed to have many Theta healers, past life regression healers among us. In numerous conversations, these healer friends of mine have pointed to one fact, the fears, the stress, the complexes, the stigma that an adult faces, the root cause of all these problems goes back to their childhood and the journey they had as an unborn child.

“It is easier to build up a CHILD than it is to repair an ADULT”. Choose your words wisely.

In ancient texts, there are numerous references to the unborn child understanding every feeling, every emotion that the mother experiences and also understanding every word that the mother says and hears. Hence, we often hear our adults say be careful of what you say in front of a pregnant woman.

The famous story of Abhimanyu from Indian mythology Mahabharata where Abhimanyu not only learns the art of warfare and archery while in his mother Subhadra’s womb, but also, learns how to break the whirlpool like army formation by listening to his father Arjun’s words is a very good illustration for us to understand that the unborn child is already a person in himself/ herself. Caught in a whirlpool by Devdutt Pattanaik

How should I talk to my child?

Talk to your unborn child with love, respect and gratitude. Give your child the same respect and dignity that you would give to a fellow human being. Talk to your child in a dignified tone that you would use for a person-to-person contact.  

Why should we talk to our unborn children in a respectful tone?

Because it gives our unborn children an affirmation that they are respectable, independent human beings about to come to this world. Isn’t this what we want our children to grow up thinking about themselves?

What should I talk to my child? What should I say?

In my experience, the first thing I feel a parent should do is thank their child as a sign of gratitude for choosing them. The child shares the energetic fields with both the mother and the father and when the father starts to connect/ communicate with the unborn child, father’s affirmations sets the foundation for inviting fathers into the parenthood journey.

A parent can start communicating by saying “thank you for choosing me as your ma and thank you for choosing <<your partner’s name>> as your papa” in their native language.  

The second step would be to welcome the soul to your womb and you can do so by simply saying “Welcome, my child to my womb. Let us start our journey from today.”

As an analogy, let us compare this situation to an adult visiting a friend’s house to live with the friend for six months. How comfortable would you as an adult feel if your friend says these simple words, “Thanks buddy for coming and staying with me, we will surely have a great time”.Wouldn’t it be beautiful for an unborn child to feel honoured? For a moment, just put yourself in the position of your unborn child and experience the joy of your mother welcoming you to her. This joy is what our unborn children need to experience for leading a truly happy life.

It is also important for the mother to start getting prepared for the coming nine months of pregnancy. The mother can also start giving positive affirmations to herself.  Just listed a few illustrations below:

  • I choose to see beauty in the whole process of bringing a new life into the world
  • My body is physically ready to experience these beautiful nine months of pregnancy.
  • My pregnancy will be a happy, healthy and a beautiful journey.

A parent can now simply add a few thoughts of their own to commence this beautiful journey with their child.

These simple messages are very powerful and act as a stepping stone for establishing a lifelong relationship with our unborn children based on mutual respect, trust, transparency, communication and honesty.

By taking this first tiny step, your boat has sailed and we can now let our inner voice guide us from here, for inner voice has no reasoning, it is what we know is the right thing to do. It is our inner voice, it is the absolute truth.

Author: Ishani

Ishani Shah-Verdia is a mother of a world-schooler, facilitator, an advocate for children's rights, believer in alternative philosophies and a traveler.