Were you a bit of a daredevil as a child?
Did you climb trees, balance on rocks or speed down hills on your bike?
Risky play is important in child development. Allowing a child to push their boundaries will help them learn what they are capable of, will support children with how they want to play and can build some independence too.
This isn't to say that play should be unsupervised. Instead it can be given appropriate space that allows children to discover and learn a safe way to play.
Of course safety rules are still important, the rules that prevent them from getting badly hurt like wearing a helmet, rules of the road etc.
You can get the conversation started about safety rules with the book Reckless Raccoon, available in the Quite a Character Bookstore.
Offer space to play without all the rules
The Nature of Things supports the idea that children need space where they know they are supported so they can experiment with risky play. Space to climb, to balance, to run, to explore. A space where they won't get in trouble for experimenting and trying. Space that has been checked for any major problems that would cause harm (broken glass etc), but still offers areas that a child will need to learn to navigate themselves (thorn bushes).
Rather than giving children a fixed structure to climb on, it is suggested to offer loose and movable parts to help them build their imagination. Logs and beams, tarps, mud and water can offer hours of messy and risky play in a safe environment.
Opportunities to help them learn what happens if logs are unstable, how to get past thorny branches and what height feels comfortable to them can be found in adventures to playgrounds, woods or in your backyard. Instead of supervising everything they do, provide adequate safety tips (with maybe the occasional reminders as play goes on) then step back and watch them play. If you see something of concern ask them how they are managing, how they are feeling and offer guidance (with words) on how to change the situation. If the situation gets too extreme for the child obviously you would step in to help.
Forging Experiences that lead to great futures!
Jules Hare Author of ‘Raise Future Leaders -3 Simple Steps to Transformational Parenting’ offers this insightful message:
"Innovative, compassionate leaders were raised and forged by experience. They were the kids that challenged themselves, took risks, and tried endlessly to define their multi-dimensional boundaries by rebounding themselves off of all the physical planes that were available. They fell repeatedly, probably got bruised often, and cried on several occasions too. Every time they got back up, and ran back to do it again; Smiling back at the person who supported them, the person who was there to kiss their wounds, love them without fear, and trust them enough to let them do it all over again."
“When we have kids engage in play, it’s really a fundamental way for them to figure out the world — how the world works, how their body works.”
Risky play and messy play go hand in hand. Check out the blog post The Joy of Making a Mess for some ideas to build a play space to encourage messy play.