Allowing risky play is such a concern for adults as we balance kids’ safety and needs but, hard as it is, we need to help kids manage risk during play. We’ll all have different views and places where we draw the line as children’s parents, caregivers, and educators. This post is a sort of discussion to encourage thinking about the issue. Looking up the topic on the internet reveals that is a subject for debate in homes, around staff meetings and school boards, at neighborhood playgrounds and international conferences, and all the levels in-between.
Just as we have our own ideas about risk and risky play, so do kids. Some children are frightened by change, the unknown, and anything out of the ordinary. Other kids seem unafraid of anything so we end each day with a few new, gray hairs. We need only pour ourselves a cup of coffee to find the gate across the stairs totally unnecessary as the baby has climbed up the outside using the rails and the little edges. Or, the toddler has climbed from the floor to the top of the wall unit and is jumping from up there down to a landing spot made of sofa cushions. What kind of risky things did you do as a child? Does that make your fears worse or better?
Most of the time, kids have some ideas about how much risk to take on at a time. They’d like to try the slide but make sure we are there at the bottom to catch them. They only go so high on the monkey bars. Our job is to help kids manage risk by judging if it’s safe to encourage them to try a little more or to put on the brakes. This is a fine line. We hate to see kids hurt themselves but it does happen.
Is this a concern and worry for you? If so, it might be something you choose as a new year’s resolution, to help kids manage risk. In the book, Children Who Soar: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Take Good Risks, psychologists Susan Davis and Nancy Eppler-Wolff state, “As parents, we have a fundamental responsibility not only to understand the inevitability of risk, but to know the importance of taking life’s risks, small and large. Risk is part of development….” As theywrite, risky play now becomes risk-taking in business and great discoveries. Parents get this task too. Really, do you think the world gives enough credit to the hardest job on the planet, raising kids? How are you coping with this challenge for your child?