Yesterday Peter and I went to a new playground at Parc Beaulieu while Kenny was attending a classmate's birthday party. There was a really exciting piece of playground equipment there that the kids - older ones, too - were lining up to use. It's kind of like a maypole, with four chains attached at the revolving top. Kids need to cooperate, but when they get going, they can swing around in a a circle quite nicely, kind of like an amusement park ride.
There was an American mom there with two kids, both around 10, and I watched as she coached her kids on how to use this piece of equipment. I guess I'm more used to the Swiss way of doing things now (much more free-range), because it really shocked me how very managerial she was with her kids. There was no question at all of letting her kids learn how to do this on their own. She was there the whole time, unraveling the chains, coaching them on where to run, giving one of them a time-out when the other got bonked on the head by an errant flying handle, even though the first had nothing to do with it.
Previously some other older kids had been doing a great job of helping the younger kids enjoy the ride. But with this mom around, they just faded away.
Do kid's activities really need to be micromanaged like this? I don't think so. And I think we're doing our children a real disservice in not letting them be more responsible for themselves.
Also, while we were there 2 boys, one about 4 and another about 6, asked Peter if they could kick around his soccer ball with him. The 6 year old chatted with me a bit, asking how Peter had learned to play soccer, etc. In the US, these kids would be warned away from ever talking to an adult, because of "stranger danger".