March 2019 Newsletter – Children and Risk

Think back to some of the different times in your life that involved taking a risk. Does anything come to mind? Probably so; but why do these memories stand out? In very simple terms, our brains create stronger memories when events are accompanied with strong emotions. In terms of risk-taking memories, many of these events are tied to strong feelings of independence, accomplishment, or thrill. There may even be a touch of fear tied to these risk-taking memories.

We all have unique stories about our risk-taking experiences and what we learned as we navigated the risks of childhood. Despite the differences, one thing is common; taking risks taught us many things.

In her 2011 study, Children’s Risky Play from an Evolutionary Perspective, Ellen Sandseter identified several types of risky play that children tend to explore:

  • Heights – Children explore their physical prowess and bravery by exploring the world from different heights.
  • Speed – Children explore how fast they can run, ride, sled, roll, swing, and eventually drive.
  • Tools – Children are drawn to explore the use of tools from sticks to knives to hammers and many others.
  • Elements – Children are drawn to natural elements such as fire, water, and ice.
  • Play fighting – Children tend to explore their physical and social strengths through chases and wrestling matches.
  • Disappearing – Children test their independence by hiding, wandering away, or getting lost.

As uncomfortable as we may be now, as adults, with these forms of exploration, most of us probably have memories of engaging in at least one of these types of risky play.

As early childhood professionals, we are not in a position to give children knives or allow them to play with fire. We cannot let them wander off or swing from the highest branches of a tree. We are, however, in a position to incorporate a variety of safe risks that children can explore and use to learn valuable skills.

For the article Benefits of Risk Taking, CLICK HERE

For the article Encouraging Risk in the Classroom, CLICK HERE

For the article Big Body Play, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Managing Risk, CLICK HERE