If this sounds all too familiar, don’t panic! This is actually more common than you may think.
Here are some tips to help your child navigate the playground while building confidence and independence.
1. Letting Go of Your Hand on the Slide
Does your child have some reservations going down the slide at the park? Is she eager to try as long as you’re right there holding her hand? Or maybe she’s too timid to go down at all?
Try this: Encourage your child to climb up the slide from the bottom. This will help her feel more in control of how high she goes. As your child begins to slowly feel more comfortable, encourage her to climb even higher the next time before turning around to slide down, closely spotting along the way.
2. Confidence with Heights
Heights can present a new challenge to both perceive and negotiate as kids are learning how to move, strengthen and balance.
Try this: Have your child practice jumping off low surfaces around the park like a balance beam or step so he feels successful landing safely. Then, slowly encourage him to stand or climb on higher platforms, letting him know you’re right there to help if needed!
3. Independence with Climbing
“”Mommy! Can you help me get up there!” Sound familiar? Climbing can be scary and challenging as your child learns to coordinate her arms and legs to reach her climbing goal. She may avoid trying independently, knowing it’s easier to ask for help. But with more practice and a confidence boost, she’ll get there soon and you can relax on the bench (well, maybe for a second…)
Try this: If your child insists on your help every time she wants to climb, try placing only one hand on her body-on her hips or bottom. Slowly lighten the pressure of your hand to lessen your support to encourage her to use her own strength and motor planning skills to reach the top.
4. Trying New Things
The unknown is scary and sometimes something as simple as swinging on the swing for the first time can be intimidating.
“What if I fall?”
“What if the swing breaks?”
“What if I get going too fast?”
You get the picture… There is much that can be left to your little one’s imagination.
Try this: When you start heading to the park, strike up a conversation with your child to help them think of one new thing that he’d like to try. It could be hanging on a monkey bar for 3 seconds, trying out the swing, or running around the perimeter of the park as fast as he can without stopping. Getting him excited about trying new things and encouraging him to attempt even just one new activity each time, big or small, will help him feel like he can accomplish anything that he sets his mind to (and he can!).
After the park, praise him for trying something new – “You did a great job hanging on the monkey bar for 3 seconds today! Even though you were a bit nervous, you did it! What are you going to try when we go back to the park tomorrow?”
Bottom line, our children are capable of so much more than they may realize. Offering your support as a parent, but then gradually lessening the amount of assistance you give will help them gain more confidence, leading to greater independence.