This post however, isn't about the merits of Strong. It's more about the observations I made while sitting in the midst of two exhibits while M&S played happily. One caveat...I know for certain I am not a "perfect parent". I have made plenty of mistakes and almost all of the behaviors I witnessed today, I'm pretty sure I displayed at some point or another in the past 6 years. I very strongly believe that parents should not be judged for their parenting style as each child is different and there really are no "one size fits all" solutions to child rearing.
As I've mentioned here, M is 3.5 and S is 5.5...not exactly babies that need my constant supervision. Within the confines of a "safe" environment (i.e. the exhibits at Strong), I feel like as long as I know where they are, I no longer need to hover around them and interject myself into their play. Their safety is my prime concern and I feel that they can explore and learn on their own without my constant "hey, look at this" or "why don't you.......". When they were younger, I'm sure I did just that, but today I was able to sit back and reflect while watching other parents hover, interject and essentially shape the child's experience at the Museum of Play instead of allowing them to venture off within eye sight to discover what there was for them, THE CHILD, to discover. I saw parents repeatedly set up the toys/pieces of the exhibit so that the child could play with them "appropriately". I saw parents get frustrated when the child either didn't want to play with the object or (gasp), wanted to do something else with it. I saw one family literally dragging their child from exhibit to exhibit, overhearing them say (as the child was perfectly content doing what they were doing) "Come on, we HAVE to get to the next thing". Why? Why do they "have to" move on? Is it because they've paid admission (versus having a membership) and feel that they need to experience the whole darn museum before it closes?
Today was one of those reflective "I've gained some perspective" type experiences. In sitting back to
1. If you let kids interact without parents constantly molding/directing the experience, they will create a world of play richer and more unique than that created by a grown up.
2. The parent that is checking their phone/reading a book/standing back a little* might actually be doing their child more good than the one that is down on their hands and knees directing their play. *Of course, with very young children, the parent does need to be closer to retrieve things from mouths, assist new walkers etc.
One other observation I made.......( Mommy's Helper Kid Keeper ), a harness designed to be worn by the child and controlled by the parent. I must admit that I do cringe when I see a parent guiding the child like a dog in a space that is designed for children. After we "lost" S for a few minutes at the Lilac Festival two years ago, I could definitely see the merits of them more than I could before. Not enough to get one because I think it sends all kinds of messages that I'd rather not send, but I could see why people used them on small children in crowded places like festivals. Using them at the Museum of Play however, not sure I'll be able to make that mental leap anytime soon.
Hmm, I think that last paragraph is bordering on judgemental . I'm sure there are valid reasons why people use them even if I don't agree with the practice. If the Kid Keeper (or similar product) is your particular forte, would you share why you find it invaluable?
What do you think....do parents of young children allow themselves to sit back and let the child experience life or do they (we???) craft a very safe and sanitized world for them to "explore"?