My two-year-old daughter held my hand as we climbed the steps on the side of a hill which led to the top of a towering aluminum slide. For the first two slides, she asked to sit on my lap so that we could slide together. I started to sit for our third run, but before I could, she waved me off. She wanted to try by herself. I asked her to wait while I scurried down the steps so that I could catch her at the bottom of the slide. In a few moments, I realized I didn’t need to worry so much. As she slid, she put her hands on the sides to slow herself down and control her descent. She let out a “Yay!” when she finished and we exchanged high fives. I couldn’t be prouder. She tried something new and found a way to do it safely by herself.
I’m far from being a perfect parent and I’m not one who likes to pat himself on the back, but I’m ecstatic with my daughter’s adventurous nature. I love her curiosity when she examines the contours on the bark of a tree. Her fearlessness when we go to the playground or when we’re in a new place can be terrifying at times, but I know I need to encourage this behavior if I want her to continue trying new activities. Developing her desire to try new things is important to me because I believe it’s helped me live a fuller life and I want the same for my daughter. I want to nurture her adventurous nature and not stifle it.
Kids strive on routine and we keep a routine at home, but my wife and I also vary our family activities when we leave the house. We take her to new activities to give her new experiences and opportunities to learn in different situations. My daughter attends playgroups at the library and creative play sessions at the community center on a weekly basis, but we’re not too rigid with her routine. Some days we take her swimming or to a music class, or trips to Vancouver’s Science World where she can run around and explore different exhibits.
When we attend new activities or go to new places, we encourage her to try different instruments, new toys or areas that she hasn’t explored before. We also encourage her to explore spaces on her own. We keep a close eye on her to make sure she’s not putting herself or anyone else in danger, but let her just wander until something piques her interest. It’s important for us to give her space and independence if she wants it, but it’s just as important for us to show that we’re there to support her if she needs us.
Being present and helping her build self-confidence is key, but so is being present and modeling positive behavior. Before my daughter tries something new like a structure on a playground, she likes to see us use it first. If we show her that it’s safe and mom or dad is trying it, then it must be ok.
As parents, we want our kids to stay safe and out of trouble. We want our kids to be close and we want to be needed, but we also want our kids to explore and branch out. I wouldn’t want my daughter to grow up without the desire to try anything new or different because she’s too scared or too lazy. I’m probably going to regret this when in 20 years she tells me she’s going bungee jumping over a ravine in Whistler or riding a donkey into the Mexican desert with friends, but – wait, why do I want to encourage her to be adventurous again? Oh right, because I did this stuff and I loved it.
Jericho Bundac knew he was ready to be a dad 15 months after his daughter was born. A few months after that momentous event, he started a parenting blog: the Dad Playbook (www.dadplaybook.com). Jericho writes about food, sports, parenting and the ways that they intertwine. You can find him on Twitter at @.
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