As parents and carers, we instinctively want to protect our children and keep them safe. Yet children need to be able to express themselves freely, to explore, to learn to take appropriate risks, to conquer some of their fears. And one of the best ways for them to learn these things is through outdoor play.
I remember listening to an incredibly inspirational speaker way back in my childcare days who described how within the home, mum and dad are in charge, at school the teachers make the rules but outdoors it's them.
The outdoor world gives children a sense of freedom that is unrivalled.
This in turn helps them with learning independence, enhances creativity, they learn to take calculated risks and they navigate themselves over, through and around obstacles - whether they be trees and branches to climb in the woods, or play frames and slides at the park.
They will feel closer to nature and benefit from the movement and exercise they get from being outdoors.
Of course we still need to be there to keep them safe and encourage and reassure. Spending more time outdoors will inevitably mean the occasional cut, scratch or graze.
For those minor bumps and scratches understanding and sharing their hurt seems to help my children. Rather than saying 'don't be silly' or belittling the pain they are experiencing, reassuring them by saying that 'I know it hurts but it will get better' helps them feel hopeful that the pain will pass.
Reminding them of their achievements often brings a smile through those tears.
"wow - you managed to climb the big climbing frame yourself today - I'm so proud of you!"
Distraction can also help. I remember when my son was younger he would want to show granny every new scratch and cut. It soon became a way of distracting him when he had a tumble: "We can show that graze to granny next time we see her".
Characters on Elastoplast plasters have also proved to be a great distraction technique. Especially for a massive Star Wars fan like Miss T. We've written about just how much she loves Star Wars here and here, so having to make a decision about whether to choose a Chewbacca plaster or a Darth Vadar one quickly occupies her mind more than the reason she was crying in the first place.
Not only have these Star Wars themed Elastoplast plasters proved invaluable for outdoor play, but every week on a Friday something unavoidable has to happen in Miss T's life. She hates it. In fact, Fridays are the worst day of the week for her.
Each and every Friday she needs to have an injection of Methotrexate to keep her juvenile arthritis under control. It hurts. We do every thing we can to minimise the pain but because the injection is subcutaneous (under the skin) unlike a blood test for example, things like EMLA cream or cold spray don't help. We do use a cold compress beforehand. We try to distract her with books and games and jokes. But there's no getting away from the fact that it hurts.
The medication itself is also cytotoxic (cell-killing) so if it was to spill onto skin it would harm her skin cells so it's important to have a plaster at the ready to prevent any of the medication oozing out once the injection is done.
Having tried all sorts of distraction methods without too much success, we decided to try letting Miss T choose her plaster as a distraction technique last Friday and then using that plaster straight after her injection.
It worked. Her tears soon turned into smiles. Thank you Elastoplast.
Elastoplast have made an amazing video showing children's tears being turned into smiles. We love it. See what you think of their #TearsIntoSmiles video:
This post is an entry for the BritMums #TearsintoSmiles Challenge, sponsored by Elastoplast.
We weren't quick enough to get sent the kit with plasters but, knowing what a big Star Wars fan Miss T is, we already had these Elastoplast Star Wars plasters in our first aid cupboard.
Title quote by: Matthew L. Jacobson