Challenge and Risk in Children’s Play
Risk is an integral part of the experience of raising children. It can teach us many important lessons but as parents, we have the responsibility of teaching our children to take risks safely and meaningfully.
From an early age, we communicate with our little one about the world around them. Before they can even speak, they will be observing the way we respond to our environment. They will internalise the positive and negative associations that we make with it. From this, they will come to learn the difference between safe environments and ones which involve risk.
Is life riskier for children these days?
Knowing when to let our kid’s experiment, take a leap and make mistakes can be tricky. The modern world can seem threatening, perhaps more so than previous generations. Cars are faster, shopping centres are busier, the sun is hotter, food allergies are common and communities can be less familiar and connected than perhaps they once were.
Where once, parents would have happily sent kids off on their bikes for an afternoon, we would now treat this decision with caution. But at the same time, we feel conflict remembering that these things were so recently a natural part of childhood.
These unclear lines between safe and unsafe also exist within the home. If we are not careful, we can become helicopter parents, hovering over our children to make sure they are safe. This ultimately does our children no favours and can create anxiety or reactive behaviour. So, how do we support the action of positive risk taking in our children as they grow?
The role of risky play
Risky or adventurous play gives children the opportunity to push boundaries, experience challenges and tests their limits in an exciting, engaging and fun environment. You can promote risky play environments in the home, outdoors and in child care settings, providing safe and supervised environments that teach children about risk.
A risky play could range from walking and running to riding a bike, climbing and balancing. As well as providing essential lessons about risk, these activities are fun. They improve motor skills, promote body awareness and aid coordination.
Why risky play is important
As parents and carers, we offer our children the opportunity to experience risk, consequence and resolution in an environment that will not threaten their wellbeing.
Modelling and encouraging positive risk taking behaviours provides your child with the opportunity to embrace their natural human instinct and use it to their advantage. In this way, they can lay down the neurone pathways that will support healthy decisions later in life. This is especially important through their teenage years.
Introducing risk taking into play communicates to children that risk can be our ally in life if we treat it with the respect and discernment it deserves. They will learn the impact of their consequences and the value of seeking help when they are out of their depth.
When a parent or educator in a day care centre delivers these activities with awareness, children can learn to trust emotional and physical exploration and begin to associate risk with positive outcomes.
Continuing their education
With a focus on natural environments and play-based learning, Keiki Early Learning helps your little one to learn about risk in a safe and supportive atmosphere. For more information about our curriculum or enrolling your child, contact us today.