A simple slip-and-fall in the kitchen could be a life-changer for a child and his/her family. You simply don’t want to see a child hurt significantly on your watch with a child in trust to you–lots of responsibility that way. And no one ever wants to see a child have a serious accident or to be in extreme, unnecessary pain, quite often due to a fluke, bad luck or a guardian’s momentary letting-up during a watch. For that reason, it helps to do a kid-proof inspection of all rooms kids will play in before they visit. This requires empathy, imagination, and seeing the rooms from the child’s point of view. (A tall order for some adults.)
One other observation regarding kids today, who have so few choices and are protected to the nth degree by overcautious, controlling parents. This in an age when kids are never seen in yards or on the streets outside of school hours or during school vacations. Many kids today simply and limitedly/limitingly live life indoors with far too much sedentary screening. It is important to get them moving, to get them outside, and to give them healthy alternatives to limited/limiting, copout-parent-self-serving, mindlessly-foisted screen-obsessiveness.
Hereabouts, when grandson comes to visit for a day, he has non-screen choices right from the get-go. Often he chooses to walk around and see what’s in the house, asking questions or using different things with permission and minimal supervision. As said before, so much of kids’ lives today are limited and unfree. Giving them choices (rather than directing their play and interfering too much with their autonomous flow) allows them to explore and try out things and to learn new stuff. This gives them a lot of confidence and more independence, guaranteed always.
It does help to cater to whatever current interests (e.g., stickers) and then having a supply of these materials on hand. And then, importantly and necessarily, they can play by themselves often without adult help. A variety of different playthings or activities (e.g., blocks, drawing with big crayons on big sheets of paper) gives more choices; again, under those circumstances kids will find their way. They likewise should not be restricted to one area or room in the house and should also be offered the opportunity to go outside, feed the birds, water flowers, pull favorite animals in a wagon, kick a ball, use a toy lawnmower, etc. there are myriad possibilities embedded within whatever context. And so what if some of these things cost, godforbid, MONEY! (Uh, like what are salting our money away for priority-wise?)
Yes, and it’s important to talk to them when you are close together, commenting on things, explaining, showing, demo-ing, asking them questions, letting them talk in their own developing language (e.g., waddy for water) rather than correcting them to become neurotically-fearful, granmmatically correct adults way before their time or any imagined adult-imposed mandatory need. In other words, adults have to let kids be, to try, and to experience as freely as possible. (When adults try to impose on kids, they need to ask themselves why. Often it is to simply make the kids carbon copies of their own frustrated, unfulfilled dreams, or of their own limited selves.)
Each child is unique and potentially his/her own person unless some adult controls too much and interferes with what ought to be a free natural process as long as possible. As William Blake pointed out, in Songs of Innocence and Experience, shades of the prison-house will close in soon enough and often enough later on.
And so for grandparents, it’s really about being a facilitator, collaborator, bud, and supporter. There is to be found the best of grandparenting. ‘To do for’ someone younger, close to yourself, who can significantly benefit from it, is about as good as it gets, as one ages. And there is nothing better or finer than a happy, free child in process.
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