learning risk

How to Steal a March #13: Kids Hear a Call for Risky Play

Somehow the world speaks differently to kids that it does to adults; without a doubt, kids hear a call for risky play. Children’s response to this call often gives parents and teachers grey hairs. As their caregivers, we need to help kids manage their answers to risk.children and risk

Our own example is a powerful model for kids to imitate. When we need to evaluate risk and make a decision, we can explain our choice. For instance, if we are on a hike we can say a different path looks shorter but we might get lost. We may decide to take the risk or not, and it helps kids if we tell them why. We may risk being late by stopping at the store on our way home, but not by stopping on the way to the airport. Likely kids will have asked why already.

To use a quote, “There is nothing so freeing as not knowing our own limitations.” Children sometimes have unrealistic ideas of their own limitations–and their abilities. One child may think a side isn’t nearly high enough while another may be terrified. One needs to be discouraged, and the other encouraged to try.young children and risky play

Support may mean having to be flexible and creative. A the age of 3, our son was convinced he could fly. He jumped off anything he could climb onto. We discouraged him, with difficulty, from flying off the garage roof. Finally, after several weeks, we were able to get the no-fly message across by explaining he could jump (fly) off something depending on having a soft landing. The ground was soft only for a short jump and hard for a long jump. Why do some kids hear a call for risky play so easily and loudly?

Some adults engage in highly dangerous activities, but most of us grownups have learned to manage risk without putting ourselves in danger. For kids, it’s a learning curve with bumps and bruises. They learn to handle risk when it’s part of their activities. Play often involves risk be it alone or with others, outside and in. In many cases, experience can be the best teacher.help kids manage risk

We will all have our own degree of acceptable risk, often in conflict with our kids and even our spouses. Handling children’s risk is a learning curve for us. No doubt, there will be some kind of risk in your child’s play today. What are your thoughts on kids and risky play?


Have A Happy and Safe Halloween

Have a happy and safe Halloween. May the only ‘owling be at the moon.

Halloween safety tipsHere are some tips and reminders for this most exciting night. Halloween is so much fun and it’s easy to forget about being safe. But one of the scariest places to be is an emergency room. Think of basic safety as a risk-management strategy, a way of sorting out the tricks from the treats.


  • Kids only go out with parents or adults, in areas they know.

  • Save treats for eating after they have been checked.
  • Walk on sidewalks and cross streets at the corner.
  • Use costumes that are easy to walk in. Injuries from fall are the main reason for emergency room visits at Halloween.
  • Make sure kids can see all around.
  • If outside, take a flashlight.

Halloween safety reminders
Photo and Carving: Megan Olsen

The words trick or treat are like a balance, just like most things in life. We don’t want to frighten kids and dampen their fun but we can give them information and explain our decisions, where appropriate. Owls can’t be the only ones who are wise so kids can have a happy and safe Halloween.

To echo the wish of these creatures,

Have a Happy OWL-oween! 

Playgrounds Help Kids Learn About Risk

Management studies for adults talk about learning to deal with risk and how to manage risk is also important for kids. Some children have a Geronimo reaction to risk, launching themselves into activities that are scary and causing their parents and caregivers grey hairs and near panic attacks. Can you relate to these daredevils? Many of us shudder as we remember heart-stopping moments. Other children are quite frightened by risk and cling to the safety of adults. Thankfully, most children are not this extreme and only cause grownups a few scares or need just a bit of support to take a few steps on their own. Playgrounds are one space where kids can learn about both risks and safety.

helping kids manage risks on the playgroundRisk is part of children’s development and just like other life lessons, kids need time and opportunities to find a balance between safety and uncertainty. The first time a child tries a slide, parents usually hold on until the little one can sit and slide independently and then move to the catch position at the bottom of the slide. Kids will soon either want the adult to move away or will check that the adults stay close. Part of our responsibility as parents and caregivers is knowing when to stay close and when to let kids try on their own. The balance between safety and risk is isn’t always easy for us, either.

Children have their own comfort zones and tolerance levels when it comes to taking risks. Is your child impulsive and needs firm guidelines or hesitant and needs encouraging? As your child plays on the swings, slides, climbers, and other equipment on the playground how do you as the adult tend to react? Are there some ways that your child can play and learn about risk?

Kindergarten Readiness – Practicing How To Learn

Learning involves a certain amount of mental risk and children who are comfortable and confident have an easier time developing kindergarten readiness. Somewhere along the line they figured out it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. They feel that learning is a safe place. In addition to making learning safe and okay for kids, instead of good or bad, it’s … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Practicing How To Learn