We need a world where children are allowed to take risks.
Children need a world where they are allowed to take risks.
But more and more we are restricting their freedoms instead. And in doing that, we are hurting our children. Maybe you can’t see physical scars but we are damaging them and limiting them from developing into who they are meant to be. I’d much prefer a broken bone than a broken spirit.
“Over the past 60 years we have witnessed, in our culture, a continuous, gradual, but ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play freely, without adult control, and especially in their opportunities to play in risky ways. Over the same 60 years we have also witnessed a continuous, gradual, but ultimately dramatic increase in all sorts of childhood mental disorders, especially emotional disorders.” – Peter Gray
Risky play is crucial for our children’s development.
“Free play is the means by which children learn to make friends, overcome their fears, solve their own problems, and generally take control of their own lives. It is also the primary means by which children practice and acquire the physical and intellectual skills that are essential for success in the culture in which they are growing. Nothing that we do, no amount of toys we buy or “quality time” or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways.” – Peter Gray, Free to Learn
I know, as parents, we worry. We don’t want our children to ever get hurt. But when we know the benefits of free play and how important it is for our kids mental and physical health to be able to take risks and challenge themselves, we can see how important it is to keep a lid on our worries.
Worry internally and let them take the risk anyway! You’ll find the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to trust them and see how capable they really are. Let them climb that big tree without telling them they’ll fall. Let them run as fast as they can without warning them they’ll trip on the pavement. Let them help you in the kitchen and use a real knife. Let them play and learn from real life like they are designed to!
Understanding that risky play is important means also understanding that someone could get hurt. Yes, they could fall out of that tree. The risk is what makes it exciting. This is how they learn to manage fear and overcome challenges. Chances are there will be some bumps and bruises along the way, and sometimes something more serious will happen. Unfortunately, we seem to live in a world where if something does happen to go wrong, you will be labelled a terrible parent. Why weren’t you watching them? Why did you let them do that? Why don’t you have eyes in the back of your head?
I do not want my children to grow up in a world that is so fearful of letting them experience life. I do not care to join the chorus of people condemning parents for not wrapping their children in cotton wool.
Every time we hear of a child getting accidentally hurt, we see thousands of people lining up to judge the parents. And we don’t want to be that parent. So we keep our children a little bit closer, we restrict them a little bit more, we allow a little less risk. And that is incredibly sad.
I don’t want a world where kids aren’t free to play. I don’t want a world where we’re expected to be monitoring their every move and they have no independence. I want one where kids are allowed to develop as they are meant to. Where parents are allowed to trust their children without fear of judgement. Where when an accident happens we commiserate and support the people involved instead of condemning them.
I think, for our children’s sake, it’s important that we all get a little more comfortable with risk, and a little more understanding of accidents.
We need a world where risky play is OK.