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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Free to Be: The Benefits of Healthy Risk in Play

(CREDIT: youflavio (Flickr))

The word risk is bouncing around the play world as of late. Some parents go pale just at the thought of it while others are eager to implement it into their children's daily play. We're talking responsible risk; striking that balance is tricky but quite possible. I'm all for the healthy union of freedom, risk and playtime; it brings play closer to its natural, exploratory state. Children delve into the invaluable, lifelong lesson of cause and effect. With less rules, they can discover a freestyle joy made by them and just for them.

All in all, risk prepares children for life. It prepares them for what's to come in the real world. It urges them to believe in themselves. Please keep in mind that in this context, risky doesn't mean dangerous or unsafe. It simply means more freedom, more exploration and less rules in play. I'd like to share with you some of the many benefits to playtime served with a light dollop of risk!

  1. Risk teaches your children about challenges – If the element of risk is present during play, it can teach your children to not shy away from challenges. Take tree climbing, for example. It certainly isn't easy, but it is rewarding and fun. Same goes for hiking; the trail may be rigorous and long, but the view is breathtaking! This will foster a healthy relationship between hard work and your child that will be infinitely beneficial as they grow.

  2. Challenges build up confidence – Self-esteem is essential to peace of mind and happiness. The freedom to interact with the world is a great, wonderful responsibility; your child's confidence will blossom if they feel you trust them in their play choices. It will also give them the chance to conquer their fears, such as that colossal slide or wobbly tire swing. They will feel more in charge of their own lives and in turn more comfortable with leadership and independence.

  3. Let the kids have fun – Free play invites your children to discover the joy of adventure and simply have fun! It can be hard to truly let loose, burn off energy and relish playtime when there's a rigid set of rules looming overhead. I think risking a skinned knee is worth the bursting happiness of running wild and free and I have a feeling your children would agree! Not only that, less rules means more experimentation; this expands their horizons and refines their tastes in play and life.

  4. Enhance their decision-making skills – Simple 'yes' or 'no' answers do not compel the child to explore deeper or make connections. Letting your child choose exactly what piece of playground equipment they wish to play on urges them to weigh the risks and rewards of each. Honing this discerning skill will be so worthwhile now and as they grow up. Life is rarely smooth sailing, but knowing how to make wise, gratifying choices makes for fine sailors.

  5. Real world experience can't be matched – Perhaps the most important aspect of all of this is that by having a little risk involved in their play, your children will experience what the real world is all about. They'll learn that there won't be constant hand-holding or a watchful eye. There won't always be some sort of assistance to get you through every situation, and they'll learn that most times, it will be up to them to make the decisions. Hopefully, they will grow fond of this independence and believe in themselves. They will love the world in all its risky, beautiful splendor and not be afraid to carve their places in it.

Throughout a child's development and growth, it's no secret that risk plays an important part. The right balance will bolster their self-confidence, tune their decision-making skills, prep them for the wonder and excitement of the world and encourage them to truly believe that they have the power to seek their wildest dreams!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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