Risky play is the best teacher to learn adaptability!
Risk is one of those words that adults understandably misemploy a lot in parenting. When it comes to how we safeguard our children’s play, risk assessment is the greatest game-changer. Assessing risks is the biggest job of a parent/ teacher in a play setting. At Sahaj, our objective is to ensure the safety of our children while also offering opportunities for risky play to emerge.
Risk-taking capacity is laying the foundation for children to learn to trust their own instincts, choose to do things for themselves, or rather to satisfy for their inner calling, never to please others. Children are naturally inquisitive about what is around them, and it's their immeasurably invaluable need to explore the unknown alongside our non-interfering support.
As adults, we have known that risk assessing knowledge is essential for anyone to survive and thrive in the real world. That capacity helps adults in a range of contexts from starting a conversation with a stranger or taking up a new job or striking new friendships or switching a career or launching a new business. If risk assessment is a core life-skill that everyone needs, it is the power of play that organically teaches children the ability to assess risks.
Risk-taking can be a key to success that opens up new avenues for their growth. However, it is not easy to parent our children when they constantly attempt things on their own without consulting us. Hence, wouldn't it make life easier if one can teach children at an early stage to take risks in a healthy manner?
Now that we have established that risk-taking is an important life-skill, let us dive deeper into exploring how we can use our words and actions to suit our intention of raising children who are capable of assessing risks. For instance, when we say, ‘Be Careful’ to a child, we often say it as it scares us to see what the child is doing.
If we could realize that how we react to our children is dependent on how we are feeling in the moment and not necessarily what the child is actually doing, it could change a lot about parenting.
We often feel scared because it is our own anxiety talking. But, when we closely observe our children’s hand and foot grip, we might realize that the child is safe and we are reacting out of our own conditioning/ perceived sense of fear/ anxiety. In other words, this scare is the result of thoughtless conditioning, and not necessarily because the child is actually unsafe.
Parents often fail to realize that unneeded interruptions, even with the best of intentions, apparently to save a kid from risk, can be counter-productive. It can hamper the child’s concentration and thus lead to minor or major mishaps. This could be in taking care of a child or teaching a child how to climb a tree. We need to remind ourselves that when our children are taking physical risks, a high level of concentration is required: whether to climb that slide or balance on a tree branch or climb a wall or balance on a structure. Physical challenges could look like,
Climbing a slide for a 2-year-old
Attempting to slide down for a 2/3 or sometimes even a 4-year-old
Attempting to jump from a height for a 4-year-old or attempting to jump on the same surface for a 1-year-old.
The degree of risks will vary according to age as well as the risk-taking appetite of each child.
We can perhaps say what we see and help children refocus their connection towards their inner self: “Are you feeling safe?” “Is this branch too thin to take your weight?” “Can you find a branch that is thick?”
How about we shift our perspective from not what we are feeling, but, to what the child is actually doing? Is the child genuinely at risk of getting hurt? Or Are we satiating our own fears by saying being careful?
By shifting our perspective, we support our children to look inwards rather than outwards. We guide our children to take risks while taking responsibility for their own selves. If the child is genuinely at risk of getting hurt, we can perhaps say, “I can see the screw of the swing has come off and that makes the swing unsafe and you need to get off this swing right now.”
Benefits of risky play:
Children learn to experience fear, overcome it and let go of fear;
When a child learns to overcome fear at a young age, we lay the foundation for a self-confident adult;
Children who have ample opportunities for risky play learn to be good decision-makers; and
Risky play leads to physical literacy as well.
At some point in time, most of us need to stretch and walk out of our comfort zone, overcome our fears and try something new. Above all, isn't risky play the best teacher to learn adaptability?