What are some real life ways we can encourage a healthy amount of risk in our child’s play for their benefit?
Teaching your child to use real tools
There are many child sized versions of objects such as hammers, shovels, watering cans, etc. Show your child the right way to use these tools and give them opportunities to practice.
Backing off at the playground
Let your child try things out. A child will only go as high as she/he can get down from so don’t lift them higher – let them work up to it on their own. This is also useful in developing social skills as children will learn to negotiate with other children about sharing the equipment, respecting others’ safety as well as their own, and joining in group play.
Allowing more freedom as children grow older and mature
Talk with your child about helping them set up challenges, e.g. walk home from school without you. With greater risk comes greater responsibility though so also help your child plan what they can do if they feel uncomfortable or threatened during such challenges.
Getting ideas from friends, community groups, and your own children about activities you can support your children to try
For example, Natureplay QLD www.natureplayqld.org.au/ provides ideas for a variety of “missions” or adventures in the outdoors for children of different age levels. Kids can also have their own passports (order for free) to record their missions and discoveries. Scouts, little athletics, team or individual sports all provide challenges for your kids to try.
Play is an essential component, and recognised human right, in children’s everyday lives, but recent trends in western societal perceptions of danger and safety have been found to hamper optimal development, and experts are now advising that children need age-appropriate risks in their play in order to learn and practice important life skills. This poses a challenge to parents and carers as to how we can encourage children to challenge themselves in play whilst managing potential hazards.
Now’s the time to start thinking about the balance of risk and play in your child’s world.