Do you allow your child to engage in risky play? Is this something you have considered? I know as a first time parent, I was much more cautious when my oldest was my one and only. Then I had my second and I seemed to relax some. I hear that the more children you have the more laid back you become.
But reflecting on how I have grown as a mother has given me pause. I think of how I use to hover over my oldest and how I’ve stepped back to give both my children room to take risks in their play.
However, do you ever notice other children or parents on the playground?
Perhaps, you hear things like “don’t jump off that” or “don’t climb up the slide.”
Sometimes we interfere with slightly risky play out of courtesy of others. Other times we simply are concerned our child will get hurt, right?
But what if a constant hyper vigilant parent actually hinders the child from being self-reliant in their determination of safe or unsafe situations?
Importance of Risky Play
I’ve thought this many times myself as my children have been growing up. I’ve made great efforts to step back and allow them the unfettered space of an over-protective mother. The opportunity to take risks in their play so they can grow in their self-confidence and independence.
In fact, A cross-sectional study compared children with and without ready access to unsupervised outdoor play opportunities and found more developed motor skills, social behavior, independence and conflict resolution in the former group. (Source NIH)
Now of course, I am not suggesting neglecting our children. In fact, A study of 390 U.S. National Parks identified “46 injury-related fatalities to children and youth among the 542 million visitors to the parks over a 2-year period . While the most common cause was motor vehicle crashes (20%), other causes included risky outdoor play activities such as swimming (11%; play with dangerous elements), hiking and climbing (16%; play at height).” (Source: NIH)(NPS stats)
However, the vast majority of risky outdoor play-related injury incidents result in minor injuries requiring minimal or no medical treatment.
In other words, the benefits outweigh the risk.
In some instance, supervised risky play still allows for our children to participate without it posing too much risk.
Consider our latest adventure… allowing our supervised children to jump off of Oqueoc Falls.
This was an amazing experience for our whole family. A little risk taking for our kids as they both fielded their way through jumping off the falls. I let my husband handle this one and became the nervous silent observer.
Overall I was pretty proud of my kids. Especially my oldest, since she is my more cautious one. She just learned to swim earlier this year on our trip through the Florida Keys. Additionally, she has been going through a (normal) fear stage.
This was truly a feat for her.
This is what I appreciate about opportunities such as this one that naturally allow risk taking. Jumping off of these waterfalls challenged my children. The various feelings that we associate with fear bubbled up to the surface. However, the exciting rapids flowing below, encouraged them to happily overcome any apprehension.
None of this can be taught through academics, it’s simply something one learns through experiences and taking risks.
All I had to do is allow them to take the plunge. Which is one of the things we need to do as parents. Allow our children to take risks, (within reason) face challenges and overcome them. It isn’t always easy to step back but when we do, this is when they grow the best.