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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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Let kids play

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This column is dedicated to all the parents who let their kids be who they are. 

Last week I boarded a plane from New York City back to Maine. I sat next to a nice young man and we began to chat. I soon learned that he was returning home to Maine from a business trip to South Carolina. I asked him what kind of work he did, to which he replied, 'I'm a traveling pastry chef.' I was intrigued.

He explained that he travels to restaurants that are having challenges and works with them to create delectable desserts to help improve their bottom lines. He also shared that he can make Creme Brulee 50 ways, and a few of his favorite flavors include Maine maple syrup.  

I asked him if he had always loved cooking. He said it all started when he was 8 years old. He begged and pleaded to his Mom to buy him an Easy Bake oven.   Remember those? Easy Bakes were introduced in 1963. They were made to look like real ovens and came with little plastic pans and cake mixes. You baked the cakes under a light bulb. They're still sold today but the look and cooking element has changed over the years.   

His plea to his mother to buy him an Easy Bake failed. Instead she said, 'If you really want to bake, use the real oven.' So he did. That was the beginning of a love for cooking and baking that grew into a passion and now a successful career. Today, whenever he visits his mom, he creates desserts for her. Lucky mom!

I was reminded of all the times my parents let me play 'business' as a kid. I would set up 'stores' on our front porch with my toy cash register. I collected lost golf balls from a nearby course and sold them to golfers. There were many lemonade stands in our front yard over the years. It was clear to them that the entrepreneurial gene in me should be encouraged and nurtured. They taught me at an early age to try and succeed and fail and learn. 

So, if you're a parent (or in my case an auntie), keep in mind that your kids' play may one day become their work - and their passion. Let them play. Let them make a mess in the kitchen. Let them sing, dance and beat on those drums. Let them color outside the lines. Let them play 'store.' Encourage their creativity and experimentation. Supervise them to keep them safe but let them be the decision makers. Let them learn, fail and win. Let them discover what they love to do. You never know one day they may be making a living from what today is their play. If you're lucky, they may coming home to bake you a cake!

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