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A child who's continually told not to do something will
invariably grow into an adult who's reluctant to ever take a risk
In the current climate of regulation and litigation,
encouraging young children to engage in risk-taking behaviours must be
the definition of madness. Right?
Well, not exactly. Research says that having the opportunity to take
risks in early childhood helps to better develop important skills,
such as decision-making and problem-solving. In the not-so-distant
past, schools and child care centres took extreme measures to ensure
that they were not subjected to public liability claims. This meant we
saw the removal of play equipment and trees and the installation of
lots of soft fall (quite superfluous, considering the balance beam
heights were set at no more than 5cm off the ground).
So this overzealous, fearful mentality created a safety net that's
allowed the risk and challenge to slip right away.
The pendulum of what is and isn't acceptable swings back and forth
from one extreme to another. And the Early Childhood sector tends to
swing with it. Only the brave are willing to stray away from the pack.
These individuals are the ones pushing for the need to give children
this all-important opportunity to take risks. They feel it's so
crucial that they incorporate it into their programs, underlying its importance.
It's time to stop wrapping our children in cotton wool. And we can
achieve this while still remaining within our regulations. If you make
the necessary risk assessment and eliminate hazards, then you can
incorporate risk-taking experiences into your program. What would you
do if you saw a child get a "leg up" by their peers to climb
on top of the cubby house? Would you panic and get them to climb down
immediately, then chastise and forbid them from doing it again? Or
would you see this risky behaviour as an opportunity for them to
develop skills in problem-solving, team work, strength building and
getting a sense of achievement? A good educator will think about these
outcomes, calculate the risks and hazards and react appropriately.
child who's continually told not to do something will invariably
grow into an adult who's reluctant to ever take a risk. Without risk
we are also deprived of developing initiative and innovative thought.
So go on - be daring. Let them jump in puddles, go out in the rain
(with wellies and raincoats, of course) and enjoy natural environments
such as the beach. You may even let them climb a tree.
people are our future pioneers and trail-blazers. It's important to
let them take a chance.