Playgrounds, Risk & Development

In a Social Planning meeting with the City regarding a potential project, a random conversation is initiated; as we discuss air quality reports somehow we are led into a debate regarding children and risk taking. There is a common feeling among most people around the table that our children are not being given any opportunity to take risks.

Why is the ability to take risks important?

Risk taking requires trusting your own instinct, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, believing in yourself and knowing that if you fail you can map out another way to your goal or scrap the idea for a better one.  I worry that our need to protect our children from every possible danger will debilitate them.

As we discussed slides and swings and how monkey bars are being banned in certain school districts someone chimed in with, “Well why not just let them play in traffic.”

I don’t think the choice we have is between running through traffic and providing options for how to best jump off a swing. Children can take risks when they stand on stage, when they deliver the local paper door to door and when they manage a dispute with a friend. What may be to some a simple issue of overregulation of play spaces and environments designed for children; I see an urgency as parents, caregivers and teachers to save our children from failure; hampering their ability to learn from those life experiences.

The reason why risk-taking is important for children is it teaches us to evaluate; see every possibility, plan, prepare and be better.

As a parent it means that when my son prepares himself for a steep ride down a hill on his bike (with his helmet on of course 🙂 ) or tells me he is going to talk to someone in his class about their attitude problem I won’t jump in with my 2 cents.

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