On Monday I wrote about how, as parents, our emotions and resulting fear can cloud our ability to effectively assess risk in our children’s lives. It isn’t easy but experiencing risk is the only way we all learn.

The US is lagging far behind in blowing away the clouds toward clearer thinking on this topic. A leading advocate for children’s play and realistic risk assessment in the UK is Tim Gill. We are avid fans of his blog.

In the preface to Tim’s book “No Fear. Growing up in a risk averse society,” Andrew Barnett says, “we recognize that keeping children safe conversely involves them in taking risks so that they can learn how to assess and respond to them; children will never understand risk if society prevents them from experiencing it.”

In No Fear, Tim describes four main arguments that make a positive case for risk in childhood. I’ve paraphrased and come up with some new equations that I think will help:

experience with risk = ability to manage risk

unfed desire for risk taking = seeking out greater risk = less safety

outdoor play = risk, but benefits to health and development far outweigh risk

facing risky encounters and adversity = character development, resilience and self reliance

Ask yourself these questions to test your own preconceived ideas about reasonable risk assessment.
Remember, like the safety of the bubble house or the relative risk of a soldier in a combat zone, some of the answers are counter-intuitive.

  1. What keeps children more safe in water? Using a flotation device or teaching your child to swim? Florida Child Drowning Facts
  2. Are children more likely to get hurt playing outside or inside their house?
  3. Are more children protected by slowing traffic in residential neighborhoods or by safety surfacing playgrounds?
  4. Are kids more likely to know how to keep themselves safe if they have opportunities for risk on playgrounds or if they play only on risk-free playgrounds?
  5. Is it healthier to play organized sports or play in the woods?
  6. Have you ever texted or talked on the phone while your kids were in the car?
  7. Do you have the training to know exactly what to do if your child is choking, drowning?

Need a system for assessing? This will help and make you smile!
A light-hearted look at a serious issue. Risk / Benefit Assessment in Play: it’s not rocket science!

© Susan Caruso and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
Photo © Haidor Truu and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012