collaboration | Jul 22, 2022

How To Avoid Becoming a Helicopter Parent: Empower Your Kids Through Outdoor Play

By Blue Squirrel Team

How To Avoid Becoming a Helicopter Parent: Empower Your Kids Through Outdoor Play

Chances are if you grew up in the 1970s, 80s or 90s, times have changed when it comes to outdoor play. You probably came home from school, had a snack, then bolted back outside to play sports or head to the park with friends, not even considering your parents until it was time for dinner. Now, the days of unsupervised outdoor play seem to be a thing of the past. In 2011, the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit advocacy group, released a brief stating that compared to the 1970s, children now spend 50% less time in unstructured outdoor activities, and that was BEFORE social media, YouTube shows and other screen-based entertainment exploded in popularity. 


What Happened?

Well, the reality is that times have changed and thanks to social media, parenting blogs and the 24/7 news cycle, we as parents have more access to information than ever before. Some information is helpful, yet some fuels our anxiety about our kids’ safety, happiness and ability to navigate the world. While we all want to protect our kids and make sure they’re safe, these good intentions can become problematic when we try to remove every obstacle so they never experience pain or discomfort. This is where we shift from being protective parents to helicopter parents.

What is Helicopter Parenting?

In 1969, a psychologist by the name of Dr. Haim Ginott published the book Parents & Teenagers. In it, teens described parents who hovered over them like a helicopter (either literally or figuratively) in an overprotective and controlling way. By 2011, the term “helicopter parent” had become so popular that it earned its own entry in Merriam-Webster as “a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child”. Though helicopter parenting can have all the best intentions in the world, it can backfire causing children to have lower self-esteem, less self-confidence and to experience more instances of anxiety or depression.

How Blue Squirrel Can Prevent Helicopter Parenting

Children need opportunities to practice their own sense of independence and develop risk assessment skills when the stakes are low. Here is where Blue Squirrel can help! The Blue Squirrel Clubhouse is designed to be a fun-filled, stimulating sanctuary for children where they can spend hours of solo or collaborative play outside in the comfort and safety of their own backyards. 

Prevents Hovering but Keeps You Aware

Curious kids will love the creative elements of a Blue Squirrel Clubhouse. Features like the chalkboard wall, pegboard wall and hidden door/secret room help kids use their imaginations and give them a sense of creating and living in their own world. Thanks to two window cutouts 15 inches off the ground in the room, kids can feel like they are hiding in their own private space, but parents and caregivers can always see them! The cutouts on the pegboard wall serve the same purpose inside.

Allows Kids to Safely Experiment 

The earlier a child begins to understand healthy boundaries the better. While it is your job to keep them safe as their parents, they have to learn (often through trial and error) how to determine and prevent danger for themselves and this lesson can be easily learned through play. 

Our Clubhouse features classic swing set elements like a swing, slide and climbing wall that will help kids understand distance, speed and height in a way that allows them to test the limits of their own physicality. But don’t worry, we’ve kept overall safety in mind. Our swing is tested by industrial design engineers to hold up to 250 lbs, we’ve placed the rocks on our climbing wall 8 inches apart to help little feet climb and the Clubhouse is primarily made of polywood, which is splinter-free and heat-diffusive.

Ease In

If you noticed your own behavior in the definition of helicopter parenting, don’t fret! It’s a habit that is easy to correct with practice. If your children are old enough to play outside in the backyard for a bit without supervision but never have before, start to ease them (and yourself) into the practice. Start by accompanying them outside, then going inside to grab a snack or refill a water bottle. Next time, get started on dinner while you casually observe them from the kitchen window. The next thing you know, they’ll be playing outside on their own and you’ll wonder why you ever stressed about playtime. 

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