Risk Taking: how to feel better about encouraging it

I was talking with a colleague/parent/friend yesterday who told me about her early days in the education field. She toured a preschool age program, and had the opportunity to observe young children being independent and taking risks.

She recalled being nervous, worried about the children being hurt. Years later, she knows the key to positive experiences with risk taking and young children: knowing the child. I could not agree more-it all comes down to building a trusting relationship between you and the children, and understanding their personality and impulses.

For example, when I have a new child in my program, we avoid high traffic areas. I offer them opportunities for me to assess their skills, but more importantly, to build trust. I need to know if that child will stop when I ask, or if that child will smile and take off running. And likewise, that child needs to know that I will keep them safe by setting limits and expectations.

Another important component to encouraging risk taking is remembering that the children don’t want to get hurt any more than we want them to. They are trying to balance, climb, jump to the best of their ability. And of course, accidents happen, but that’s why it is so important for a care provider to know the child well enough to ensure a relatively safe opportunity, and adequate supervision. But bottom line, (I don’t have real statistics) 9 out of 10 times, I suspect the child will be successful in that risk, and if not, they will learn something about their body and themselves! And perseverance is always a good skill to practice!

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