Many parents worry about potential harm from risky play. But child experts explain how outdoor risky play aids key skills if supported appropriately. They offer tips on stepping back while still guiding kids.
Concerns Around Overprotective Parenting
There is growing concern over “helicopter parenting” where parents hover constantly, trying to prevent all risk. But this can hinder child development.
It can lead children to lack resilience, problem-solving skills, and initiative. Outdoor risky play provides an opportunity to cultivate those abilities.
The Developmental Benefits of Risk Taking
Reasonable risk-taking teaches essential life skills like assessing consequences, taking responsibility, and learning from mistakes.
It’s an unavoidable everyday part of life, from driving to investing. We can’t eliminate risk, so managing it is crucial.
Why Outdoor Risky Play Uniquely Teaches Kids?
Outdoor play spaces are variable environments where conditions change. This teaches kids to adapt.
No two trees or play structures are identical. Successfully navigating risky outdoor play instills confidence.
Parents Recognize Many Developmental Upsides
In a survey, parents reported dangerous outdoor play allows growth in problem-solving, independence, social skills, creativity, and more.
Seeing their child persist through physical and mental challenges gave parents joy.
How Parents Can Support Beneficial Risky Outdoor Play?
Child experts suggest useful principles for parents to allow kids to take risks while still providing guidance:
Adopt a Positive Mindset About Challenges
Be mentally prepared for kids to test limits on equipment and try new things when visiting parks. View it as skill-building.
Find the Balance Between Helping and Letting Kids Explore
Stay observant, but don’t assume you’ll assist constantly. Allow children to experience activities themselves first.
Use Encouraging Language Over Warnings
Saying “be careful” can instill unnecessary fear. Instead guide kids to make good choices for themselves.
Provide Specific Safety Advice
Offer useful tips like maintaining three points of contact when climbing. Don’t just issue vague warnings.
Let the Child Assess Their Own Comfort Level
Allow kids to decide which equipment they use and how high they climb rather than pushing them past their readiness.
Have Fun and Celebrate Trying New Things
Join kids in imaginary games at the park. Reinforce that it’s fine to accept or pass challenges. Both choices are great for learning.
Providing Context on the Risk Debate Around Natural Play Spaces
The study arose from controversial media coverage of the Boongaree nature play park after some injuries occurred:
Located in Berry, NSW, Boongaree Includes Diverse Features
Boongaree incorporates fixed equipment like slides along with variable elements like trees, sand, and water.
Safety Concerns Led to Media Coverage and Changes
After some kids experienced broken bones, the media highlighted Boongaree as a “dangerous playground.” A tunnel slide was replaced with a less intense version.
Study Surveyed Parents on Risky Play’s Benefits
Researchers surveyed over 300 adults to get parental perspectives after the controversy. A follow-up discussion group provided qualitative insights.
Findings Highlighted Risky Play’s Developmental Value
Despite injuries, parents largely reported their kids benefited greatly from risky play opportunities at parks like Boongaree.
Broader Considerations Around Risky Playgrounds
The Boongaree case underscores some wider issues as communities design play spaces.
Weight trad-offs between safety and developmental benefits
Highly safe play areas may prevent injury but offer less learning value. Riskier parks teach key skills despite potential harm. Communities must weigh trade-offs.
Importance of mitigating excessive risk
While some risk aids growth, unnecessarily dangerous equipment should be avoided. Moderation is wise.
Teaching kids risk assessment skills
Rather than eliminating risk, kids need guidance to gradually learn how to assess and manage risk themselves. This builds competence.
Focus on overall developmental outcomes
The primary goal should be play that nurtures capable, resilient, confident children. This requires letting kids learn from experience while reasonably preventing serious injuries. Finding the right balance is crucial.
Risky outdoor play allows children to develop vital skills if parents take an actively supportive role. With proper guidance and boundaries, kids can learn risk management, problem-solving, independence and more. While safety matters, some beneficial risky play is essential for healthy development and builds capable children.