Our children are precious to us and with daily reports on the dangers that lurk out in our world today, it can be tempting to cosset them. But are we really equipping them well to cope in the future? Read on to find out Why letting your child take a risk may actually be good for them. This article is sponsored by Delphi Resort who know all about adventure and outdoors and how good it is for kids even small ones!
Times Have Changed
I don’t know about you but my childhood memories are about roaming free, most of the time outdoors, having adventures, building dens in the woods or back garden, only coming in to the house for a quick bite then dashing back out to play with my friends again.
In contrast, my daughters’ lives are very different, we tend to spend more time indoors or going to and from planned activities, they use technology in a big way. There’s less physical activity as part of the teaching curriculum, and lots of concern over childhood obesity. But even worse, we may be creating a generation that cannot assess risk or make good judgements easily as in we aren’t letting them try for fear that they will hurt themselves.
In 1971, The Policy Studies Institute began a survey of children and found that just under 50% of seven year olds had the freedom to travel around their local neighbourhoods unsupervised. Forty years later they found that less than 10% of seven year olds enjoy that same level of independence.
Working with young people over the last 30 years has shown Delphi Resort that getting from A to B – whether you walk, climb, kayak or zip wire – is easier if you work together. They work with families, school groups, company groups to help them build new skills and nurture confidence.
To sum it up, coming to Delphi is a true adventure. You’ll feel relaxed knowing that your activity is safely supervised and you’ll have fun doing the things that can’t be done indoors, whether that means climbing hills or crossing rivers.
“it’s about digging deep, climbing high and discovering an inner courage…”
Why is Taking Risks And Getting Adventurous Outdoors a Good Idea?
By the way I don’t mean leaving your child unattended or in some dangerous situation here. We are talking about reasonable risks.
#1. Children need to take risks to learn how to manage risks
This is an essential part of growing up. When kids are playing and outdoors, they are making hundreds of decisions as they assess and determine the levels of risk they want to take. This is adding to their skills and their experience.
So, through play, children acquire confidence, but also an awareness of limits and boundaries. They learn, in short, how to be safe.
#2. Regular time outdoors is good for your emotional wellbeing too
Did you know that being outdoors generates real improvements in the following areas?
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Learning ability
- Mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing, including reduced aggression and increased happiness.
Reference: “Why our children need to get outside and engage with nature“, The Guardian 2010
#3. Kids learn New Skills outdoors
Playing and having outdoor adventures boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness.
One study published by the American Medical Association back in 2005 concluded that “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors”.
The great thing about being outdoors is that nature offers experiences of the world. For example, climbing a tree lets a child learn how to take responsibility for themselves, and importantly, how to measure risk for themselves. If you fall out of a tree, then you will have learned a good lesson about reward and risk.
#4. It’s important for developing resilience
Children won’t develop resilience without getting a little hurt and getting back up again. Risky things help develop that resilience. Things like:
- climbing and jumping from a height
- unsupervised play
- cycling fast down a hill
- playing with knives
- playing near water or cliffs.
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health says children need “risky play” and says that children who do so improve their reaction time in detecting risk, increase their self-esteem and are less likely to takes risks related to sex and drugs as adolescents.
#5. A child’s neurological system needs the sensory input that outdoors brings
According to Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, which focuses on nature-centered developmental programming in New England, a child’s neurological system is naturally designed to seek out the sensory input it needs in order to develop into a strong and capable individual.
For instance, if a child starts jumping off small rocks, that is because their brain is ready for this type of activity. If a child is spinning in circles just for fun, it is because he or she needs that sensory input. If they climb a tree effortlessly, it means they are capable of doing so.
#6. Even small kids can benefit from outdoor play
Even preschoolers need outdoor time. Barnardos advises parents to provide as much opportunity as possible for your child to experience and play freely in natural outdoor environments – the garden, the local park, the beach, the woods or the local playground.
They have a free ebook you can download with tips on how to support your child to be physically active, allow them to explore and encourage them to be imaginative.
So What Can We Parents Do?
Here are a few suggestions for parents:
#1. Wean Yourself Slowly
Yes, wean yourself off the habit of stepping in all the time when your child is outdoors. Avoid saying “don’t do that” or “be careful” too much.
Let your child go off on their own for 20 minutes. You can make sure they know how to cross the road and how to stay safe.
#2. Go Geocaching
You might suggest getting outdoors to your children and get moans and groans, but introduce them to Geocaching and they will soon get into the idea of this fun modern day “treasure” hunt. It’s all outdoors, it’s free to participate and you just need a GPS device, most smartphones and tablets will have this nowadays.
#3. Go on a Family Adventure together
Delphi Resort offers families the chance to …
#4. Commit to Rewilding
Check out The Wild Network and all the fun idea and suggestions they have for parents to help “kids roam free, play wild and live nature-rich lives”.
Or try the 30 day Rewild Your Life programme which has the goal of spending at least 30 minutes outside in nature every day for the 30 days.
#5. Take the kids camping
There’s no better way to create magical family memories, than to take the kids camping. Think fresh air. Laughing kids enjoying the great outdoors. Sitting out looking at stars. Tired kids who sleep all night.
Over to you now! What are your views on the topic of allowing your child to take more risks and be outdoors? Share your thoughts in the comments below