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As parents, our knee-jerk reflex makes us immediately intervene with anything we see as risky or dangerous. The second they start crawling towards the stairs, we run and pick them up. We make sure that hot mug is immediately out of reach. And these reactions are well within reason! Falling down the stairs or spilling hot liquid can both lead to traumatic injury. But…

Let Them Explore

While our instinct is to put ourselves between our children and anything that could hurt them, too much intervention can hurt their adventurous spirit. They’ve reached for that hot mug out of curiosity, for example. Give them a chance to maybe gently touch the cup. Let them know it’s “hot” and to be careful, but let curiosity be king. 

Get Dirty

Rachel Walker said it best: “When a kid gets dirty out in the world, it’s almost entirely on their terms. They become the boss of their body.” 

Going out and exploring is never completely clean: the world around us is dirty, so we inevitably get dirty playing in it. There are so many ways to have fun getting filthy, too! Take your kids hiking, build a sandcastle, run through the sprinklers. If they’re not afraid to get dirty, it means they’re not afraid to explore. 

Some ways to muck around: 

  • Build a mud castle. Think sand castle, but sloppier.
  • Dig for worms. 
  • Plant a garden. Fresh produce, anybody?
  • Paint a mud picture. Draw a boat, a horse, anything. Whatever you can paint with finger paints, you can paint with mud. 
  • Dig for fossils. Dig for real fossils or plant some dinosaur toys for your little ones to find.

Get Out There

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness… Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Take them places and give them free reign to play. It doesn’t matter what: go skiing, hiking, or bowling. 

It doesn’t matter much where you travel, either. Go around the block. Take a road trip 50 miles away. Drive 100 miles away. The point is to expose them to new environments. 

Give Them Space

Wherever you roam, give them room to explore. Set guidelines and expectations for safety, of course, but let them ramble free. Knowing that you trust them will help them trust you in return. They’ll see you as a safe haven and will rest assured knowing that you’ll always be there to support them. 

What It All Means

Autonomous people are adventurous. They are independent, optimistic, and curious. And those people are so self-assured that it’s hard not to like them. Cultivating those natural instincts is as simple as letting them. Give them free reign and they can be assured that you’ll be there every step of the way.

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