Gever Tulley saw it before a lot of us: That anything “shaper than a golf ball” was getting labeled too dangerous for kids.
And that kids were losing out because of this.
Tulley’s 2008 TED Talk, “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” remains a personal touchstone. I just re-watched it and couldn’t help jotting down so many of the points he made. In under 10 minutes he nailed the problem now called “safetyism,” and the huge advantages we deny kids when we don’t let them interact with the not-perfectly-safe world.
Tulley begins by confessing he doesn’t have kids of his own so he “borrows” his friends’. And when kids attend his summer Tinkering School — since expanded into the fabulous full-time BrightWorks school in San Francisco (I visited and love it!) — they may indeed come back “bruised, scraped and bloody.” That’s because, he says, “I put power tools into the hands of second graders.”
Aside from that activity, he also recommends letting kids experience these five mind-and-body-building “Dangerous Things”:
1 – Making fire.
2 – Owning and using a pocket knife.
3 – Throwing a spear (and other target-aiming activities).
4 – Taking apart appliances.
5 – Breaking some rules and/or driving a car (on private property. Traffic not recommended.)
All these things are so thrilling and, yes, potentially dangerous that they demand patience and focus. Want your kids to develop those skills? Maybe they need some dangerous activities to get them going!
As for the spear-throwing, “It turns out that our brains are actually wired for throwing things,” Tulley reports. “And, like muscles, if you don’t use parts of your brain, they tend to atrophy over time. But when you exercise any given muscle, it adds strength to the whole system.”
We’ve been atrophying a lot of childhood by assuming kids are too delicate to deal with any danger, no matter how minor. Watch the Tulley talk and see if maybe you’re ready to give your kids a knife.
P.S. Send some photos when you do: Lenore@LetGrow.org .