Why Kids Need Risk, Fear And Excitement In Play


Published:

“Be careful!” “Not so high!” “Stop that!”

Concerned parents can often be heard urging safety when children are at play. Recent research suggests this may be over-protective and that kids need more opportunities for risky play outdoors.

Risky play is thrilling and exciting play where children test their boundaries and flirt with uncertainty. They climb trees, build forts, roam the neighbourhood with friends or play capture the flag. Research shows such play is associated with increased physical activity, social skills, risk management skills, resilience and self-confidence. These findings make intuitive sense when you watch children at play.

Importantly, it’s not up to parents or experts to decide what is risky play for a particular child.

Rather, children need to be given the mental and physical space to figure out appropriate risk levels for themselves: far enough that it feels exhilarating, but not so far that it becomes too scary.

My years as an injury prevention researcher have left me well aware of things that can go wrong and how to prevent them from happening. But because I have a doctorate in developmental psychology, I am also concerned that we are keeping our kids too safe. Preventing our kids from exploring uncertainty could have unintended negative consequences for their health and development, such as increased sedentary behaviour, anxiety and phobias.

Parents’ Hopes And Fears

Many of the parents I’ve spoken to through my research recognize the importance of risky play, but can be overwhelmed by worry about the possibility of serious injury or abduction. They also worry that someone is going to report them to the authorities for letting their child take risks. These worries make it hard for them to let go and can result in over-protection.

More recently, I’ve noticed an opposite trend: parents who are worried their child is too timid and not taking enough risks. They want to know how they can help their child take more risks in play.

This concerns me as much as over-protection. Both approaches can increase the risk of injury and harm since they ignore children’s capabilities and preferences. How will children learn about themselves and how the world works if an adult is constantly telling them what to do and how to do it?

What About Injuries?

There’s never been a safer time to be a child in Canada. The likelihood of dying from an injury is 0.0059 per cent. Car crashes and suicides are the leading causes of death, not play. In fact, children are more likely to need medical attention for an injury resulting from organized sports than play.

Likewise, the likelihood of abduction by a stranger is so small that the statistics are not even collected. In an attempt to strike a balance, injury prevention professionals are moving to an approach that seeks to keep children as safe as necessary, rather than as safe as possible.

Children Are Inherently Capable

Risky play is an important part of many outdoor schools and early child care settings in Canada and other parts of the world. In outdoor forest schools and nurseries in the U.K., for example, pre-school and kindergarten kids build dens, climb trees, use tools and create fire — under careful supervision.

One principal in New Zealand decided his students didn’t need any rules. Students were allowed to climb trees, build forts, ride bikes — whatever occurred to them. His school was part of a larger study that found students who were allowed risky play were happier and reported less bullying than students in schools who didn’t change their approach.

Seeing children engaged in risky play helps us realize that they’re much more capable than we think. When they’re given the chance, even very young children show clear abilities to manage risks and figure out their own limits. We just have to open our eyes and be willing to see what is in front of us. And most importantly, get out of the way to give them a chance to experiment for themselves. The potential for learning is enormous.

What’s A Parent To Do?

Setting unnecessary limits on a child’s play or pushing them too far: both are problematic. Our role as caregivers is to give children the freedom to explore and play as they choose while supporting them in managing the real dangers that pose a serious and realistic threat to their safety.

What this looks like varies for different children depending on their developmental stage, competencies and personal preferences. For example, play where there is a chance of getting lost is common at all ages: A preschooler hiding in bushes feels like he’s a jungle explorer. His parents supervise while giving him the feeling of independence.

For older children, this kind of play can involve exploring their neighborhood with friends. Parents can help prepare them by gradually building the skills needed to navigate traffic safely.

For parents struggling to strike a balance, my lab has developed OutsidePlay.ca, an online tool to help parents manage their fears and develop a plan for change so their children can have more opportunities for risky play. Usually this involves learning how to get out of the way of children’s play. Change can be as simple as counting to 30 before stepping in to give children a chance to manage on their own. Parents are often amazed by what they see.

Dr. Mariana Brussoni is a developmental child psychologist who has investigated child injury prevention and children’s outdoor play for 15 years. Dr. Brussoni and her interdisciplinary research team work closely with key stakeholders, knowledge users and community members to promote children’s healthy, active and risky outdoor play. Her work and research findings were featured in over 60 media outlets from 14 different countries.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
Outdoor Preschools Bring Affordable Education to Parks
I’m My Daughter’s Best Friend. How Do I Help Her Become Her Own Person?

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

November 18, 2018

It’s a delightfully lazy Sunday morning. The Moon is void of course in Pisces. Sleep late. Relax. Indulge in sentimental favorites, comfort foods, familiar songs, faces and places. Enjoy mother nature. By late morning the Moon enters “get up and go”…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2018

Join us and take your intuitive skills to the next level! The goal of this series is to create a sanctuary of learning and support where all can deepen their connection to spirit, stretch...

Cost: $45

Where:
Private Office
6 Royal Crest Drive
Apt 11
North Andover, MA  01845
View map »


Sponsor: Sacred Spiral Dance
Telephone: 978-973-6637
Contact Name: Diana Harris
Website »

More information

Celebrate and give thanks for harvest of the summers effort! We have a fun line up of readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while you enjoy shopping...

Cost: $60—3 15 min. sessions (45 min total), $25—15 min. session

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Unit A
Salem, MA  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers—Heavven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Where do they go? A chat about what happens when a person passes. Where do they go? This is a question psychic medium Diane Lewis has been asked over and over again. Many of us wonder,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Together We Can New England
148 Thompson Road
Webster, MA, MA  01570
View map »


Sponsor: Together We Can New England
Telephone: 508-943-1637
Contact Name: Caryl
Website »

More information

Kinetic Chain Release, moxibustion and past life regression at Leapin Lizards. Every third Sunday: 9/16/18 10/21/18 11/18/18 12/16/18 For information, call Leapin Lizards at (207)...

Where:
Leapin Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME
View map »


Telephone: (207) 221-2363
Website »

More information

This three-part series attunes you as a conduit to the healing system of Kundalini Reiki, a firey earth-based feminine energy. Kundalini Reiki is a gentle yet powerful modality to channel healing...

Cost: $150

Where:
Akasha Studio
20 Birch Street
Roslindale, MA  02131
View map »


Sponsor: Miriam Katz, Shamanic Healer
Telephone: 617-545-5142
Contact Name: Miriam Katz
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Katie Malloy Ramaci  Expand your connection to the angels by learning IET levels 2 and 3 certification. Truly move forward on your path. Learn Soulstar activation and release...

Cost: $1099 (Early Bird $999)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Join the Heart’s Desire Herd of Empowered Equines in Rochester, Massachusetts for an afternoon of peace and serenity. Remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Discover...

Cost: $65—some partial scholarships available

Where:
Heart’s Desire Stable
Rochester, MA  02770


Sponsor: Heart's Desire Stable
Telephone: 508-763-5254
Contact Name: Chris Korben
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags