Every day, as adults, we assess the risk of almost every action we take. We know not to walk too quickly on wet or icy ground, to move slowly through a dimly-lit room, not to touch a pan that was just taken out of the oven. These aren't instinctual behaviors, we've learned them through experiences, sometimes painful ones. How many times have you bumped your knee on a piece of furniture or touched a pan that hadn't cooled down? These are all learning experiences that allow us to adjust our future actions, avoiding or lessening those potentially dangerous or painful encounters.
Risk is a part of childhood play. In fact, true nature play cannot be void of risks because risk is an inherent part of nature. As a child, taking risks allows children to match their skills with the demands of the environment. Can I balance on that log? What happens when my shoes are slick with rain? Am I strong enough to pull myself up onto that ledge without falling? A child that grows up in a risk-averse environment may grow up very timid and reluctant to take risks or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, may have difficulty judging a situation and put themselves in serious danger.
We all want for children to be safe from harm, to protect them from dangers and hazards. Unfortunately, an understandable desire for safety can lead to a fear of all risk, which can be harmful to a child's development. As adults, we can manage risky situations and make sure that we are removing hazards, while leaving appropriate risks in place.
Without risk, children would never learn how to walk, how to ride a bike or swim or climb. Risk helps children develop good judgement, confidence, self-awareness, courage and resiliency. Reflect on the lessons you learned from being given the chance to explore and learn about your own boundaries. Imagine your childhood without the bumps and bruises, the rough play and tumbles. Would it have been the same without the occasional injury? Would you be the same?