Parental Supervision Required?

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Do your kids require constant entertainment and supervision?

How do you entertain your kids? Do you have them in music lessons? Are they on several sports teams? Do they know how to operate your electronics better that you do because they’ve been watching videos on your phone for years? Do you schedule playdates for them? How do you feel about parental supervision? What are your thoughts on letting your young kids entertain themselves? Play by themselves in the house?

Are you comfortable letting them roam a little further?

What about alone in the yard? Or how about at a park that you can see from your windows? We spent so much time outside when the weather was nice and there was never any parental supervision. Our parents had too much to do to spend their day supervising us, let alone keeping us entertained. Even when we were inside we were left pretty much to our own devices. It was unheard of for parents to spend the day entertaining their kids. That’s what siblings and friends were for. I tend more towards the free range parenting side of things, not necessarily because I think it’s better, but because I am lazy. I can’t even maintain my own social life, I definitely don’t want to take responsibility for that of my kids’.

boy running though a field without parental supervision. there are trees overhead
Spending time in nature without a parent supervising is probably the best pastime a kid can partake in

Lack of Imagination has been a real problem at our house

My kids have had some difficulty in keeping themselves entertained, especially my daughter. Her imagination is not as developed as my son’s and when left to her own devices she quickly runs out of ideas of what to do. My son, however, can keep himself entertained in his room for hours while my daughter naps (he gave up naps earlier than she did).

image of boy watching video on a laptop presumably with parental supervision
Keeping kids glued to screens is and easy way to make sure we can watch them but it does nothing for their imaginations

My husband and I have not given our kids many electronics and we haven’t placed limits on screen time. The TV is almost always on at our house, unless I am home alone. (I crave silence, but that is a story for another day.) We have all the kids channel and Netflix and we also allow them to occasionally watch YouTube. (What is it with kids wanting to watch other kids open and play with toys anyway? So weird.)

Enough is Enough!

So anyway, the kids have become accustomed to having entertainment at all times and I am sick of it. I started implementing TV off times every afternoon and the kids are learning to play together and alon. Surprisingly it has been going (relatively) well. Giving them the freedom of not being entertained by something outside themselves has really encouraged their imaginations to grow. My daughter sometimes even tells me bedtime stories that she makes up herself now!

Just go play outside!

Recently I decided that my kids are old enough to play in the yard by themselves. For those who don’t know, my kids are 5 (almost 6) and 4 years old. They are not especially mature or responsible. They have no specialized self defense training. Our yard is fully fenced, we live in an okay neighbourhood, and we don’t have many dangerous items out there beyond your basic sticks and rocks. I am confident in their ability to keep themselves safe in our yard, with me checking on them regularly. I can’t leave them completely unsupervised after all.

girl in muddy boots standing in teh back yard looking at a playhouse
the backyard is the perfect place to start off playing without parental supervision

Since it is spring now they have spent the last couple of weeks digging up the yard and playing in the mud all afternoon. It has done terrible things for the lawn but amazing things for their attitudes. I’d say that’s a fair trade. I’ll take happy, dirty kids over a nice green lawn any day. We are so lucky to have such a good backyard for the kids.

I hate playing at the park but my kids love it

We are also lucky enough to live directly across the street from a park. I have just in the last week or so decided to allow them to play there on their own for short periods of time. When they are there though, I am watching from the front porch or window pretty much the whole time. The way the park is situated there is a large grassy area between our house and the playground equipment. It is just far enough away that I can’t hear all but the loudest of cries. It’s also in the middle of a cul-de-sac so traffic is pretty much just our neighbours and the odd delivery vehicle.

photo of a playground surrounded by trees and houses
playgrounds are full of amazing opportunities for kids to test their skills, grow friendships, and expand their imaginations all without parental supervision

Nearly every kid in the neighbourhood lives right across the street from this same park. For kids who don’t spend a lot of time at school and who don’t attend a lot of extracurricular activities this park is the center of their social circle. A boy from my daughter’s kindergarten class even lives just down the street. That in itself is pretty impressive because she’s in a program that she needs to be bussed across town for!

Now I can’t get them to come home

What initially began as short trips to the park alone has transformed into my kids spending all afternoon there. They take short breaks for snacks and to use the bathroom but other than that they’ve been at the park until dinner time for the last three days. Sometimes they play together, sometimes they play alone, and sometimes all the kids in the neighbourhood are out a the same time and they all play together. It’s quite the sight to see.

two unsupervised kids leaning against a tree and laughing
friendships with neighbourhood kids don’t require playdates arranged and supervised by mom and dad

The kids are all different ages and the bigger ones help the smaller ones and so far they all take care to include everyone and to take turns. That’s not to say they haven’t had their little scuffles. Once or twice one of my kids has come to tell on someone but my motto is generally if no one is bleeding it’s none of my business. (Before you come for me I will also say that bullying is not tolerated, but I’m not going to intervene in minor disagreements.) In addition to learning how to play together they are learning some conflict resolution. Mom can’t always be there to step in an save the day, especially when it’s something that they can easily resolve on their own.

It’s good for kids to play without parental supervision

All in all I’d say we are in favour of letting our kids play on their own. The benefits go far beyond just growing imaginations and increased physical activity. In just the last few weeks of insisting on some good old fashioned playtime I’ve seen some definite maturing on the parts of both my children. They’re taking responsibility for their own entertainment, they are looking out for themselves and each other, and they are getting to know the neighbours better. They’re even fighting less at home. Not to mention the fact that neither of them has fought bedtime or been up in the middle of the night for no reason in the last three days!

playing without supervision helps children learn responsibilty, increases their imaginations, and encourages them to learn problem solving skills Click To Tweet

I remember when I was a kid and running around the neighbourhood with the kids who lived nearby was our after school entertainment. I miss the days when kids would just ride bikes, go for walks, play in the woods, or build forts in the yard. My kids are playing unsupervised and learning how to entertain themselves, just like I did when I was a kid. And I think it’s good for them.

Why is there so much sand????

As an added bonus my house has never been cleaner! Here I thought I was just a shitty housekeeper when it turns out my kids are just messy little beasts 😀 The only issue I have now is the sand they drag in from the park. Seriously, it’s in their boots, their hair, all over their clothes, and it’s even in their underwear!

How does your family prefer to entertain your kids? Do you take that on yourself or do  you let your kids figure it out on their own?

I’d love to know how you feel about the need for parental supervision. Let me know in the comments or send me an email!

Until next time,

Chantal the Secular Homemaker

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