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Risk versus care?

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.
 A 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.
These little people are our future pioneers and trail-blazers. It's important to let them take a chance.