With another school year under their belts, summertime brings an opportunity for tween aged girls to have a little more freedom, and to move and think differently than they do when school is in session. Summer means ample time to engage in unstructured play (activities they create without adult direction, not restrictive of time or to one location in particular).

Girls can freely explore their interests outside of their regular structured activities. Tween aged girls are more physically and emotionally developed between age 8-12 than boys; encouraging unstructured play at this time is critical for development of movement, social skills and decision making.  Often times, parents of young girls tend to caution them against engaging in higher risk activity. Think of what young boys in your neighborhood do…build ramps, race bikes, go to the skatepark. Parent anxiety and words of caution to females early on teaches them to be afraid, avoid things they may fear or be unsure of, which makes them less likely to adventure and be active in their adolescent years. An example of this is the firepole at the playground. Parents may caution young girls to ‘be careful’ or hover nearby to catch them, maybe even caution them away from the pole if they are afraid and towards the slide instead, while their boys slide (or fall) down without a second glance. This can set an early pattern of young girls avoiding activities that involve risk if we allow them to accept fear as a reason to not do an activity. This pattern can keep them out of sport in their youth and adolescent years, and avoidance of unfamiliar activities if they perceive risk or are fearful.

Encouraging girls to adventure from a young age can help them develop independence, bravery, sense of self and accomplishments, and increase self esteem prior to the influences of puberty and social pressure. Adventuring cultivates maturity in decision making outside of the protective parental bubble, where girls are able to conquer fears and gain confidence; relinquishing parental control over activities allows more opportunity for girls to adventure, think outside the box, and develop their minds and bodies over summer break.