How to Help Children Manage Risk and Challenge in Their Environment
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Children learn to assess risk through outdoor play time.

Have you ever found your preschooler headed to the roof to jump into a pile of leaves like Tigger? Or maybe your toddler is more like Piglet, too nervous to try anything new? Though parents naturally worry about risk-taking tots, research in the Australian Journal of Early Childhood shows that "the willingness to engage in some risky activities provides opportunities to learn new skills, try new behaviors and ultimately reach our potential. Challenge and risk, in particular during outdoor play, allows children to test the limits of their physical, intellectual and social development." Parents are in a perfect position to guide their children to handle the challenges that come their way.


  1. 1
    Decide what risks are completely unacceptable and remove those hazards, such as play equipment that is not age-appropriate or dangerous electrical wiring in daddy’s work shed. Teach the proper use of items as children are old enough to understand them, such as how and where to use a hammer and never to touch a lighted candle. Always supervise children around potentially risky items.
  2. 2
    Teach your child clear boundaries in different settings to help him develop independence and responsibility. Encourage him to work out problems with other children as they arise in order to learn how to resolve conflict challenges. Set the bar high in your own life, and explain safe behavior to your child in different circumstances, like cars taking turns at the stop sign so no one gets hurt.
  3. 3
    Encourage your tot to assess the risk of a situation, such as walking down a path covered with wet leaves or stacking blocks into a tower without a sturdy base to support it. Help her reason through what steps she should take to overcome each challenge, instead of just telling her what to do. Talk about the consequences of not looking for the risk, like falling down on the slippery path or watching the tower collapse all over the floor.
  4. 4
    Give your child opportunities to attempt challenges that are not harmful, such as sports or volunteer situations. Let your youngster accompany you as you deliver meals to a home-bound neighbor, act as an extra in your community theater or learn to play soccer at the local recreation center. Give him plenty of time to experience each situation and gain new skills.
  5. 5
    Teach your child that all risks and challenges come with consequences that can be either good or bad. Assure her that fumbles and accidents are all part of the learning process, and that the experience is well worth the risk.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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