Allowing children to take some risks is important for their overall development. In fact, Bay Area Discovery Museum recently published its Top 5 Reasons It's Okay for Kids to Take Risks, following the UK's major study by Play England (part of the National Children's Bureau) and an article in Sunday's The Observer.
Since then, another blog, Open Education has also discussed learning and growing as risky business. In this post, they quoted the study Understanding the Risk Aversion to Risk and also share how Gever Tulley has created a list of "five dangerous things we should let our kids do" and founded a week-long camp called the Tinkering School, where he puts power tools in the hands of second graders. Tulley's camp and the importance of risk-taking have also been featured on NPR's All Things Considered.
While allowing children to take some risks is important, understanding your child's limits is important as well. So how do you determine what risks to allow and encourage your child to take? Here are four things to think about before you decide:
1.) Trust Your Instincts
No one understands your child’s abilities and skills better than you! You also can recognize previous experiences that may make taking risks more challenging. Watch and listen for your child’s cues when deciding whether or not to encourage him to take a risk.
2.) Assess the Situation Together
Talk to your child about the risk and its consequences. Encourage her to share what she thinks would be the best way to respond. This communicates your confidence in her as an active and competent learner. These floors look really slippery. How do you think we should move through this area? I think you are right. We better move slowly through here or else we might fall.
3.) Consider What Could Go Right
Sometimes adults’ own fears can dictate decisions made related to risk-taking. To help recognize the value of the risk, remember to ask yourself—What could go right? As important as it is to ask what could go wrong, it is even more essential to recognize that removing or avoiding the risk may only postpone learning the consequence, skill or how to problem solve the situation.
4.) Model Making Mistakes and Learning From Them
Treat mistakes as learning experiences. You might even share with your child a similar experience you have had. Oops! It looks like there was just too much water in the cup that time. How much water might you try putting in the cup next time to prevent it from spilling?