Why is risk taking important for my child?

“Be careful!”
“Watch out!”
“Get down from there!”


Would you be a millionaire if you had a dollar for every time you cautioned your child to stay safe?

As a parent, our job is to love, teach and protect our beautiful children.

Author Elizabeth Stone said it best; “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

 

But what if we are too scared? Too protective? Too time-poor? Unknowingly, we could be robbing our children of life experiences that teach vital skills they need to flourish. A healthy dose of risk taking is crucial for our precious children.

So what can we do when it feels like there’s danger at every corner? One of the ways to tackle our own fears is to learn why positive risk taking is important. And to understand the different types of risks and benefits.


Challenge Vs Danger


Firstly, there is a difference between a challenge and a danger or hazard. And we need to teach children how to manage the risk of both.

A challenge is something that is likely obvious to a child where they can decide whether to take the risk based on how they feel about their ability.

A danger is something that is not seen or obvious to the child and can result in serious injury. It can also be something that goes beyond the comprehension or development of their age-level, for example road dangers will not be apparent to a two-year-old.

While both may provide opportunities for learning, it can help to think about whether a risk is a challenge or a danger and decide how much intervention, if any, is necessary.



Some questions to consider:


• What is the likelihood and severity of harm?
• What can be gained from the activity?
• Does the potential benefit outweigh the chance of injury?
• Can I make this activity or situation safer by minimising the risk?
• Can I encourage my child to really look at the situation and assess for themselves?
• Do I need to step back and observe my child?



What do the KinderGym experts say?

Natalie Jacques, from Gymnastics NSW, says responsible risk taking is a life skill.

“It’s an essential part of life,” she said.

Her advice to parents includes observing the child and really trying to offer them a chance to learn themselves without being too restricted.

“For example, if they are jumping from a box to a mini trampoline to a landing, try holding one hand instead of holding two and completely guiding them through the activity. Let the child experience it for themselves and the risk associated.”


While it’s hard for parents to strike the right risk-taking balance, KinderGym offers the perfect opportunity for kids to participate in typically high-risk activities but in a very safe environment, said the Gymnastics for All Events and Sport Development Officer.

“When children take the classes, they learn fundamental movement skills as well as the skill of weighing up risks when trying something new.”

This post is part of the KinderGym series on positive risk taking.
Stay tuned for: Nine benefits of positive risk taking in early childhood.