The Benefits of Risky Play
The educators at Apple Tree International Kindergarten and Nursery in Bangkok regularly run across parents who don’t allow their children to push themselves to their limits.
These parents refuse to allow their precious children to subject themselves to any risk at all. Although the children remain safe and sound, it doesn’t help their development or sense of self-confidence. Children need to be able to establish their comfort level and fear threshold. They also need to develop common sense to keep them out of danger.
Parents have to understand that keeping their children safe at all costs only increases the likelihood that they will injure themselves later on because they haven’t been given a chance to explore their limits.
Parents need to find their own threshold of acceptance and be willing to keep expanding it. Kids need to fall down in order to learn how to get up again and stand on their own two feet. They also need to learn social boundaries when it comes to playing with other children.
Risky Play as a Social Tool
Testing limits is what risky play is all about. But these limits also encompass many facets of a child’s development other than finding out how brave they are.
Risky play often involves other children. How the child interacts with their playmates allows them to explore the accepted norms of social behaviour and realise what is an acceptable way to act and what is not. It also is beneficial in making the child realise that different individuals have different limits, and those limits must be respected to get along in society.
Getting the Parents Onboard
Before the child can begin to explore the world around them and test the limits of their mind and body, they sometimes have to get out from under the sometimes stifling care of their parents.
Parents have to develop a sense of trust in their child’s abilities to enable the child to develop their sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. If a parent is always around to console a child and pick up the pieces whenever they get a bump, scrape or bruise, that’s the behaviour the child will come to expect from others throughout their entire life.
It can be a hard attitude for a parent to develop as it goes against their instincts to watch as their child suffers, if only temporarily. But it’s crucial for a parent to establish a ‘hands-off’ policy for their child to be able to establish their own limits.
Parents have to adjust their behaviour as well when the child begins to exhibit the beginnings of this physical exploration and risky play. Instead of repeatedly warning a child not to engage in a risky activity, at some point, every responsible parent must begin instead to let their child take the lead.
As the child becomes encouraged to push their limits further and further, it becomes the role of the parent to decide how rough is too rough, how high is too high and how fast is too fast. As the child is given ever greater freedom to probe their limits, they will naturally begin to feel fear, panic, pleasure and exhilaration – the feelings that decide the limits within everyone.
The parent becomes a safety net, but one that allows the child to fall in order to enable the child to experience these feelings. As the parent becomes more comfortable with the risky play of their child, their sense of anxiety will begin to ease, and this will provide more opportunities for the child to come even closer to their limits.
Installing a jungle gym or a zip line is another way to encourage risky play, but to do it on the parent’s terms. The parent controls the space that the child explores and determines the boundaries of height, speed and inherent danger.
This will help nervous parents to let go of the reins gradually as they begin to get comfortable with the concept of risky play. If you have other questions regarding the concept of risky play, contact the staff of Apple Tree International Kindergarten and Nursery in Bangkok to schedule a consultation.