I feel however that overcoming the negatively that is associated with term ‘risk-taking’ is a challenge in itself; but in reality it’s really quite simple. I also know of some who believe that minimal risk taking is the goal for injury prevention, but surely all this does is hinder our children’s development.
Taking risks is simply one of the things children do when they are playing and because a significant amount of playing is about pushing boundaries and extending ourselves, it turns out that most play is risky one way or another (Marc Armitage)
So why do we at Mairtown, and many other teachers and parents value risk-taking? Over recent years much research has been completed on the benefits, and perhaps more importantly the implications of children not partaking in risky play.
What are these? The many benefits of risk-taking through play shows children learn to become responsible and independent for their own actions, they develop coping mechanisms and resilience, it builds self-esteem, problem-solving capabilities and interestingly children develop a respect for danger, for hazards and experimentation – in other words they learn about calculated risk (Nichols, 2000).
The best safety lies in learning how to deal with risk rather than avoiding it.
That’s not to say that we all allow children to engage in experiences that are clearly hazardous. This is where our knowledge of each individual child is so important, knowing about their capabilities, their current resilience levels whilst also accepting that their are benefits to be gained in some small accidents. The scrape of a knee, a bump on the bottom are minor accidents where children will learn greatly through having had the experience – there obviously has to be a balance between risk and safety.
It is really interesting for us at Mairtown when we reflect as teachers, to note that the children we take into the bush each week, despite the potential for more accidents, actually have less. I suspect this is down to the fact that generally children know where their boundaries lie, they know when they’ve gone far enough, and are often more careful because they don’t actually want to get hurt.
A no risk childhood is risky
(Mac Donald, 2006)
Ma te wa, Christine