Folks! Here’s new wisdom from Michigan’sÂ Heather Shumaker, author ofÂ Itâ€™s OK Not to Shareâ€¦And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate KidsÂ .Â Sheâ€™s a speaker, blogger and advocate for free play and no homework for young children. Â Hey — so am I! L.
Safety Second â€“ 3 Risks Young Kids Need by Heather Shumaker
Sometimes it seems as if SAFETY has become a parentâ€™s only job.Â Stop running!Â Be careful!Â Youâ€™ll get wet! Put that stick down before someone gets hurt!
As caregivers, our job is to keep kids safe.Â But itâ€™s not our only job.Â As the old saw goes, â€œNothing ventured, nothing gained.â€ Risk is essential.
A â€œSafety Firstâ€ mentality can freeze us. If safety is the only consideration, it can actually hurt our kids.Â Kids need all kinds of risk to become competent human beings.Â Hereâ€™s a sampling of the kinds of risks kids need.
Kids become safer as they gain experience using their bodies. Say yes to tree climbing, wall walking and stick playing.Â Show kids how to fall properly (rolling) and avoid real dangers (cliffs; busy streets).
- Drop â€˜Be Carefulâ€™Â – â€œBe careful!â€ is vague and alarmist.Â Say nothing or offer specific information: â€œLook at your feet.â€Â â€œYouâ€™re near the edge.â€Â â€œSomeone is behind you.â€
- Donâ€™t rescueÂ â€“ Donâ€™t lift kids out of a tree if theyâ€™re stuck.Â Â Guide them instead: â€œWhere could you put your foot next?â€Â Kids are partners in their own safety.
- Check in â€“ Asking â€œDo you feel safe?â€ is a good reality check for kids.Â It forces them to assess the situation (Gosh, no, I donâ€™t feel safe) and fix it.
The Risk:Â Yes, they could get hurt.Â Mostly skinned knees.Â Major harm is possible, but riding in a car is far riskier.
Risk pops up in friend making, too.Â If we insist all kids play with each other (â€œyou canâ€™t say you canâ€™t play), then weâ€™re depriving kids of essential opportunities to practice social skills and navigate friendships.
- Allow friends to be together Â Itâ€™s OK for a child to say â€œNo, I donâ€™t want to play right now.â€Â Kids have the right to choose their playmates. They also have the right to choose to be alone.
- Rejection isnâ€™t evilÂ Â Kids donâ€™t have to like everyone they meet (adults donâ€™t).Â They do have to learn how to treat everyone respectfully. Rejection is not necessarily mean â€“ in fact, it can be a great teacher of social skills.
- Rejection brings resilienceÂ Experiencing a bit of rejection helps kids realize itâ€™s not the end of the world if someone says â€˜no.â€™ Â They can recover and go on.
The Risk: Yes, they could get their feelings hurt â€“ and learn resilience and empathy.
Risk comes through ideas, too.Â Whether itâ€™s dramatic make-believe games, art or stories, kids need time and support for creative ideas.
- Art without models -Â Ever see a line of identical pumpkin faces tacked up on the classroom wall?Â No art or creativity there.Â Thatâ€™s practice with scissors and glue.Â Go ahead and demonstrate techniques, but let kids express their own ideas.
- Seek basic toysÂ – The best toys serve multiple purposes.Â Think blankets, hats, capes, sticks, cardboard, play dough.Â Many toys sold in stores are â€œsingle-purposeâ€ and can limit creative play.
- Unstructure the day Â – Ideas need space and time.Â So do kids!Â Free up the day.
Â The Risk: Yes, they might make a mistake.
So safety, yes, but keep safety in perspective.Â Risk and safety are both parts of being alive. – H.S.