The Benefits of Risky Play
Why Children Should Be Allowed to Take Risks
Using real tools instead of a kids tool bench or helping prepare dinner with a real and sharp knife might seem like it’s too risky. But children who are given the opportunity to experience real-life tools and situations gain so much from the experience.
So let’s take a closer look at the benefits of risky play.
Risky play allows children to learn about respect at an early age. Learning respect is something children should be encouraged to do from a young age. Respect for their belongings, for nature, for fire and heat, for water, for themselves and for the other people in their lives. This concept can easily be extended to tools and other forms of risky play.
Children don’t need to be taught fear. We don’t want them to be scared of fire or water or heights or sharp objects. We simply need them to understand that there are risks, how to judge these risks, and how to make decisions that keep themselves and others safe. They should be taught how to use tools safely and effectively, and how to use their amazing bodies without being reckless. And this can be done with tool toys through risky play.
Promotes Self-Regulation and Self-Control
Allowing children to engage in risky play can be brilliant for building their capacity for self-regulation and self-control. Children are able to understand what could happen if they aren’t careful and don’t treat the tools with respect and the results are very personal. There’s no risk involved in playing with a plastic hammer but they can feel by the weight that hitting themselves with a real hammer is going to hurt.
Understanding and Assessing Risks
It’s very hard to teach children how to assess and mitigate risk if they are never exposed to it. Allowing children to experience risk lets them explore their boundaries. Letting them climb a tree or a big climbing frame lets them see how high they are both capable and comfortable going.
Engaging in risky play allows children to develop physically, emotionally and mentally and builds not only their abilities in each of these areas but their self-confidence.
Physically children get to master new skills and test and improve their physical abilities. They get stronger and more capable learning to hammer a little harder, climb a little higher or saw a little more effectively.
They learn about how strong they are and that there are some things they can’t do yet and that’s just as good as learning the things you can do.
Emotionally they get to encounter and overcome fears. They get to feel trusted and gain trust in their own abilities. They learn to respect and they feel respected. They may also learn what it feels like to feel out of control, what happened to get to that point and how to get out of the situation.
Mentally children learn about their boundaries as well as external boundaries. They get to challenge themselves, solve problems, get themselves out of trouble and develop the skills they will need to assess risk for themselves in later life.
All these things are brilliant for boosting self-confidence and self-esteem.
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