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.
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I don’t know about you, but my childhood memories are about roaming free, most of the time outdoors. We had 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, and 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. Put simple, we often 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 Working with young people for over 30 years in outdoor education, Delphi Resort has shown that getting from A to B – whether you walk, climb, kayak or zip wire – is easier if you work together. The fully qualified leaders and staff of Delphi Adventure Centre at the resort work with school and youth groups, families and company groups to help them build new skills and nurture confidence
With an outdoor adventure centre offering over 20 activities that the whole family can enjoy, a restaurant, café and bar onsite that serve delicious wholesome food, luxury family rooms, free Delphi Spa Thermal Suite access for parents, a free Kids Club and free movies shown in the movie room during holiday season, all while situated in a beautiful mountainous setting in Connemara, it is the perfect place to take your kids for a family break at any time of year.
To find out more, click here for information on adventuring at Delphi Resort.
Why is Letting Your Child Take a Risk a Good Idea?
When we talk about ‘taking a risk’ we mean in a reasonable or adventurous way – not leaving your child unsupervised or in a dangerous situation.
#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.
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#2. Regular time outdoors is good for your emotional wellbeing too
Did you know that being outdoors, engaging with and experiencing nature, generates real improvements in the following areas?
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Learning ability
- Mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing, including reduced aggression and increased happiness.
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#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. 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.
Risky things help develop that resilience include things like:
- climbing and jumping from a height
- unsupervised play
- cycling fast down a hill
- playing with knives
- playing near water or cliffs.
#5. A child’s neurological system needs the sensory input that outdoors brings
According to Angela Hanscom, a paediatric 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.
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So What Can We Parents Do?
Here are a few suggestions for parents:
#1. Wean Yourself Slowly
It can be nerve-wracking to even consider letting your child take a risk. But 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. Try 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.
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#3. Go on a Family Adventure
Delphi Resort in Connemara, County Galway is the perfect place to go on a family adventure. The resort accommodates families and you can completely relax there for your stay as they have everything you need onsite.
With an Adventure Hub offering over 20 fun and enjoyable activities, several food options, luxury family rooms, free spa access for parents, a free Kids Club plus the Kids Grub Club (which offers a chance for kids to eat early and enjoy an activity and evening movie supervised), it is the perfect place to take your kids for a family break at any time of year.
#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 next 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!
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What are your views on letting your child take a risk? Leave your comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!