Risk-taking in Play and Everyday Life for Children

Parenthood means to protect young ones from injuries and pain but it is distressing feelings that help children learn about their surrounding environment. Youngsters need to explore and learning of risk and safety is a part of growing up both physically and mentally. 

There’s a certain cap to this, of course. There are activities you will classify as appropriate risk and others absolutely inappropriate. 

Fast definition of risky play

At Montessori Nature we know that risk play is a form of ecstatic play that helps children overcome stimuli via uncertainty, unpredictability, and risk of physical or mental discomfort. Risky play stands for thrills, excitement, and tears as children learn to fall only to stand on their own. 

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When you leave children on their own, it is the difference between risk and hazard that draws the line:

  • Risk is what young ones can foresee and analyse.
  • Hazard stands for harm children do not see.

The risk from a child’s perspective

Risk-taking is as exhilarating by instinct. However, bear in mind that what seems insignificant to you, could be scary for your child. This could be walking down staircases on its own, jump in the water or getting feet wet on the beach. 

By experience and physical senses, risk-taking teaches youngsters how to cope with uncertainty and unpredictability in life. Just as kittens learn to hunt, younglings need to explore and figure out how injury, pain, and fun work together.

What’s included

A dose of healthy risk in child play can nourish courage, curiosity, and passion.

What children love the most:

  • Heights and high grounds
  • Speed and fast play
  • Rough or tumble games

Monkey play is a form of risky behavior preferred by children. A child can behave in ways not favored, such as jumping from high spots, climbing furniture, trees, and even mock-aggression. 

While toddlers love to climb, preschoolers adore jumping, running, various races, ball games, skateboarding, cycling, and the list goes on. Such activities strengthen muscles, bones, cardio and lung activity, as well as practice persistence, and resilience, too.

Gameplay with loose materials such as cardboard boxes to name one, allows children to construct, destroy, feel sad, and joy, thus developing creative thinking and adaptivity. Sharp edges and flimsy structures stand for bad risks. 

How risk-taking benefits children?

Risk-taking is crucial for the healthy development of physical and personal qualities in young boys and girls. While some are risk-averse, others will push it to the limit. Both ways, here’s a list of the benefits of age-appropriate risk: 

1. Risk-taking enhances physical and emotional health:

To gain confidence, kids need to fail big only to try again. By overcoming the difficulty of assessment real learning happens. Human beings learn courage and bravery when stakes are high and discomfort is at hand. 

Fact is, most kids avoid the biggest and scariest obstacle. Instead, many rather take it slow until confident enough. It takes minutes, hours, days or even months, depending on how risky the challenge is. Of course, you might encounter the contrary – hyperactive behavior as a result of overexcitement. Taking it one step at a time allows children to overcome fear in a natural and constructive way. 

Kids are often on a swing or dangling upside-down from the monkey bars. Heights involve quick, unordinary moves that develop the vestibular system to nourish instincts and reflexes. It’s a fact that growing those particular skills helps young ones cope with emotions and strengthen attention at school.

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2. Risk-taking encourages individualism and self-observation

When a child undertakes a risky choice, it both experiences and learns what and how decision-making is. 

By evaluating steps taken, consequences, loss, and reward, children develop strategic thinking, ideation, and most importantly – vision. Through this, young boys and girls grow independent, knowing what it takes to achieve the desired goal. 

3. Improves social skills 

Risk-taking happens mostly while children communicate with each other. It’s how they learn each other to express themselves among friends. Wild games help young risk-takers build assertiveness and self-reliance. 

These strong features have a positive impact on further social interactions. Thanks to acceptable risk, kids are more likely to balance self-confidence with respect and kindness. 

Another crucial skill acquired is the ability to realize and accept different opinions.

4. Helps self-confidence

When in reasonable dangerous play, younglings are safe to risk it, mess up, and thus learn good, and bad. It’s how toddlers grow brave too, later on, overcome all real-life obstacles, that follow. 

When introduced to balanced risk play from an early age, children desire to take part in school activities, sports, or playground games. By taking risks, young ones figure out the importance of not giving up and trying harder, regardless of being outside their comfort zone. 

The excitement of accomplishments is essential for the healthy psychological development of children.

6. Acceptable risks ensure safety and prevention of real hazards 

If you restrain children from gameplay with appropriate risk, they might seek it to rebel and thus get hurt for real. 

Here is where you, moms and dads, should focus your efforts on discipline.

A good piece of advice for parents to focus on and communicate the risk of consequences in a descriptive and vivid way. 

By saying “Hold my hand while we cross the street because if you run on your own, you will scare me greatly and also really sad.” instead of “A car might hit you,” is how you can focus on what will scare a child rather than your own fear. This way you’ll aid the young one in figuring out what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Be a play buddy, start small, and use common sense, while leaving the young one lead. 

Parents – role and concerns

Parents take care only to diminish hazards to the levels of acceptable risks.

Where risk & benefits meet

When in doubt, ask yourself these two questions:

  • What is the worst to happen?
  • What is the best to happen?

Parents are prone to act based on worries and fear, instead of what’s actually at hand. That’s why these two questions could help you make unbiased decisions. 

Keep overprotection in mind

Popular cultures, media, and researchers stand for the overprotection of children. Of course, when raising up a child, safety does come first, but parents tend to put too many limitations on little ones’ play.

Turns out that children being restricted too much face a bigger chance of health issues, such as obesity and mental health concerns. Тhere are more worries to follow – learning deficiency, self – insufficiency, problems with communication, judgment, and more.

So, what’s the solution?

You, as caregivers, have to set limits and still give your child the freedom to take age-proper risks. 

  • Be sure to stay nearby for actual danger is right behind the corner.
  • Be aware of the real threats to their well-being. 
  • Avoid being fussy and shielding while with them.

Unfortunately, it takes time, a lot of it. That’s why you need to fully commit and arm yourself with patience.

  1. When out and about, encourage your younglings to act brave. Evaluate the possibility of serious injury. Children can have different ideas of a risky play. 
  2. Let yourself and your child benefit of a risky play – the physical skills it develops, the many adventures involved, the connection with nature and the surrounding environment. It’s how children grow their strength, coordination, agility, and self-belief.
  3. Be constructive. Remind your child about jeopardy when necessary. The trick is to use a positive attitude and wording rather than the opposite. Encourage young ones to talk you through their decision-making process. Show that you are proud and give them praise.
  4. Make sure to spare enough time. Many play accidents happen because parents are in a rush or not paying attention. Be generous when sharing time with your child. Home or outdoor, be there to help with taking appropriate risk.

Final remarks,

To conclude, risk in play and everyday life of children is responsible for important life skills, such as:

  • Persistence and confidence
  • Coordination and orientation
  • Awareness of limits and ability span
  • Sense of unacceptable risk
  • Self-confidence and well-being 
  • Cause and effect
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Eagerness and curiosity
  • Problem-solving
  • Joy

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About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.