By Guest blogger Kylie Lannan
Spring has arrived and with it comes some terrific opportunities for your child’s development as well as expanding their experience of the outdoors.
It is my favorite time of year here in Brisbane. It is a great time to get out and about; exploring parks, beaches and many places in between. However, often with this outdoor fun come some hazards that we as parents must be diligent about. In particular we must be constantly alert near water around the home and in public places. Babies and young children are inquisitive by nature and this can put them in danger or result in a tragic accident.
On the flip side I feel that this need for alert puts fear in parents, which at times drives us to be overprotective of our children. How expectations on parents have changed when comparing to the way my parents allowed me to play and explore as a young child. I remember playing with friends down at the local creek, going to visit the horses in a local orchard and playing hide and seek around the neighborhood. Very different to suburban living in 2014 where there are so many more dangers both real and perceived. It is such a balancing act for parents today to find that middle ground which allows their children to explore and keep them safe at the same time.
Spring also means children’s tender skin is exposed to the harsh Australian sun. On one hand we need sunlight for good health however sunburn is painful and harmful to children’s delicate skin. Research has linked childhood sun exposure to developing skin cancer later in life so precautions must be taken to minimize skin exposure. A safe environment requires that parents be diligent and to follow the Cancer Council of Australia’s message of “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.” Hat, sunscreen, shirt, shade and slide on sunglasses are the actions we need to take to protect our skin from the harsh sun.
An enormous amount of development both physical and emotional occurs when children can “run free” outside. By allowing children to play independently allows them to take safe risks. Children need to be allowed and in fact encouraged to take educated or safe risks such as climbing a tree. It is important for their development and confidence however it does go against a parent’s instinct to protect their child. As long as children are taking these risks in a safe environment they will feel well supported if it doesn’t work out. It will help them get back up and have another go but of course it usually means there will be some scrapes along the way. By always helping and protecting our children we are inhibiting their ability to gaining resilience. This is what helps all of us get up and have another go when things don’t work out the first time. This is a vital life skill that we all need.
The outdoors can be an overwhelming place for some children and they may need the help of parents to navigate their way. However try not to “do” for them just guide them; let them climb trees, jump from rocks or dig in the dirt. It is all part of their learning and developing. Have fun with them and enjoy being outdoors this spring.
Kylie (Settle Petal consultant – Brisbane)
This article was endorsed by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance.