With the freedom to explore, a child spotted a pair of cranes and took this photo.

I let three 9-year-old boys walk a good distance ahead of the group on a hike at Governor Nelson State Park last week.

This might not sound like a big deal, but it was for them.

They wanted to feel independent. And yet, they kept looking back, just to make sure we were still there. That’s how growing up works. Kids want to stretch their wings, but do so only when they feel that someone will catch them if they fall.

It’s important to give kids opportunities to be independent. They don’t get this otherwise.

Unlike my youth, these kids do not get to roam outdoors.

They go from home to school to after school and then back home again.
They do not get to practice being independent even in the smallest ways, like going to the grocery store or walking to school.

On this trip, I was happy to give them a taste. And look what happened. They “snuck up” on Sandhill Cranes; they spotted a hummingbird; they watched Canada geese with their goslings; they walked on the rocks by the water and spotted a dried up carp.

They were so excited and engaged and I didn’t have to do anything, but be with them. They developed observation skills, gained confidence and expanded their knowledge of the world.

But most important, they learned to trust themselves and I learned to trust them.

Let me know how you give kids a taste of independence.

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