While traveling during our vacation, we stumbled upon one of the most amazing parks our family has ever seen. Adventure Playground is a throw back to a time when kids could run wild and parents seemed to worry less. The playground is filled with wood scraps, plywood, interesting construction materials, and more. Kids can earn tools like hammers, saws, and paints with which to construct their own project, or add to or decorate the play structures already there.

My initial reaction when I read about Adventure Playground was enthusiastic, and I knew we needed to go there. What surprised me was the apprehension that set in as we got close. Would one of my kids step on a nail? Saw through a finger? Fall from an unsafe play structure? I bit my tongue and tried to let the visit unfold without planting seeds of doubt.

The kids were as excited as I was to check out this free-for-all place, but when we walked in I noticed they stayed close with their arms folded. We took a lap through a jungle of kid-graffitied wooden structures featuring hanging tires, slides, and ropes. For a few minutes, my kids looked lost in the chaos. A part of me worried that my kids had lost their ability to let go and play; that rules and school and schedules and homework and drudgery of the everyday had eclipsed the uninhibited kids they used to be.

In a way it had, but a single ride down the zip line and a glance into the scrap wood boxes cracked their reserve and they positively lit up. My daughter, a girl who takes being a cliché sullen 13-year-old to heart, spent hours sawing through a block of wood to make a heart accent for her project. My son, who acts like I’ve sent him to the firing squad when I make him order his own food at a restaurant, went back and forth to the tool counter to find out how to  earn more tools to make his race car train. When he finished his masterpiece, he set out into the play area to try his hand at large scale construction, while my daughter added her personal art to the walls.

I swear I could hear the joy and creativity bursting out of them. This experience will forever be available to them as proof that they can do things that makes them uncomfortable, that they can enjoy creating, and working on a difficult project from beginning to end. It was one of the most memorable and meaningful experiences of our very busy summer.

I tell you about this playground to encourage you to nudge your kids to venture outside their comfort zones. Consider whether or not to take a chance when you find yourself in situations that challenge you, or your kids. Give your kids opportunities to prove they are  more than they thought they were. Better still, allow them them to prove it to themselves!