As parents, our natural instinct when we see our children taking risks is to prevent them from getting hurt. Our life experiences and adult knowledge lead us to say things such as “Watch out!”, “You’re going to fall.”, or “That’s not going to work.” Often, it doesn’t matter if we say these things or not because children try it anyway.
Why do they try it even though we just told them not to? Because EXPERIENCE IS THE ONLY TEACHER!
What if I told you that children taking risks during play is beneficial?
Recently, we saw all of the benefits of risk taking unfold in the Outdoor Classroom and here’s what we observed:
Children intuitively know when their bodies are ready to try new things and take risks. That is why we don’t put children on the swings and push them at Marvelously Made. When their bodies are ready to do it, they will. Not every child climbed the ladder and swung from the branch. They trusted themselves.
This experience provided the opportunity to evaluate a situation and make a decision for themselves. Many children climbed the ladder, grabbed the branch, and took the leap from the ladder right away. Others climbed the ladder, tried to build up the courage, and decided they weren’t ready and climbed down. They didn’t give up though, they got back in line to try it again! A few weren’t ready to try it at all.
Tackling a challenge builds confidence. No matter if a child did it on the first attempt or the fifth, their face radiated with pride and they carried their new confidence into their next attempt.
The children showed incredible patience as they waited for their turn (social development). They respected that the challenge wasn’t the same for everyone and some needed more time on the ladder than others.
They encouraged each other with words and cheers, even those that weren’t wanting to try it.
Some children slipped from the branch or fell as they landed. If that felt scary, they worked through those feelings knowing they were ok (emotional development). They made a plan for how to control their body differently to get different results the next time (gross motor skills).
Watching this experience naturally unfold was a great reminder of how much is gained from allowing children to try something new and take a risk while they play.