Have you ever seen a child climbing a tree, or perhaps swinging on a rope over a river?
While it might make some adults nervous, this type of play, known as risky play, is actually an important part of a child's development.
According to research, risky play helps children learn to assess and manage risks, and can also improve their physical and social skills. It gives them the opportunity to test their limits and make their own decisions, which can foster independence and self-confidence.
That's not to say that risky play should be completely unsupervised or dangerous. Instead, the hope is to allow children to perceive risk in a thrilling and exciting activity. It's important for adults to provide a safe environment for children to engage in risky play, and to be there to offer guidance and support when needed.
We believe in the rewards of risk-taking and you will see this in the museum programs. During STEM-A-Palooza, children worked with adults to use cardboard cutters. During summer camp, children will often be seen running down hills or climbing rocks (and getting stung by bees!).
And if you're looking for more ways to encourage risky play at home or at the children's museum, here are a few ideas:
Set up a climbing wall or ropes course
Provide a variety of playground equipment such as swings, slides, and monkey bars
Encourage outdoor play in natural environments like forests or fields
Allow children to play with loose parts, like sticks and stones, which they can use to create their own play environments
Introduce children to more dangerous tools slowly, letting them become more independent as they practice
Remember, it's important to strike a balance between keeping children safe and allowing them to explore and take risks. With a little guidance and supervision, risky play can be a valuable and enjoyable part of childhood.
The next time you see a child climbing a fence or running through a sprinkler, try not to be too quick to intervene. It might just be the perfect opportunity for them to learn and grow.