Sticky ice-lolly fingers, sand and soil stuck on suncreamed knees and elbows and, of course, the inevitable visits to beaches, forests and parks. That’s what a British summer is all about, right?
However, amongst the hordes of flying Frisbees, plastic-suited gladiators and screeching bicycles, there always stands the little boy or girl who won’t put their feet in the water, climb the branches of the trees or whizz freely down the slide. They look on at their peers swinging confidently from rope swings and, despite the encouraging words from parents and carers, simply don’t feel ready to have a go themselves.
For parents, it’s a very fine line. Do we encourage them more? Less? We don’t want to put them off, but equally, we want our children to have experiences that will give them confidence in their own abilities for the years to come.
We have known for some time that the first two years of a child’s life are crucial. In fact, the human brain develops to about 80% by this age, with major neurological pathways established, ready to soak up information. And, although there are many studies suggesting that confidence is partly due to genetics and nature, studies also show that between 50 and 75% of our confidence is created through positive environmental experiences from within this crucial period.
Here’s where soft play comes in. Given the opportunities to climb, slide, roll, fall and then get back up again in a fun, safe environment, children learn that mistakes can be made over and over again without great harm. More importantly, they learn that they have the power within themselves to find a solution to life’s tricky problems, from scaling the climbing wall to negotiating another half hour on the tablet with mum. They learn that it is fun to dive headfirst into ball pools, down the big wavy slide and into the unknown.
We often spend a great deal of time thinking about the development of motor skills and hand-eye-coordination when we discuss the benefits of soft-play but it is important for us to consider the psychological benefits, too.
This summer, why not introduce your little one to a brave new world at our soft play centre, and watch them grow into a confident individual ready to tackle anything life throws at them.