July 14, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Parent perspective: On letting your kids take risks

All parents have a natural instinct to protect their children from harm. After all, it's never much fun to see your child hurt, even if it's just a scraped knee. But on the other hand, children need to take on physical challenges to learn and grow, and scraped knees and other bumps and bruises teach them valuable lessons about their own limits.

When does our instinct to protect actually hurt our children by denying them the opportunity to take on vital challenges? What's the line between too little and too much risk? These are questions our Park-A-Day Summer Challengers have been grappling with as they watch their kids use playground equipment and wonder when to intervene.

Here are their thoughts:

From AngieSix: "Many of the playgrounds designed for 2-5 year-olds just aren't any fun for my preschooler. My kids, once they mastered walking, have always been on the hunt for a challenge. So yes, I let them play on equipment rated for ages older than they are. If they find themselves wanting to try something that might be too difficult or not age-appropriate... I ask them if they need help. If they say yes, then my answer is, 'If you need my help to do it, then you probably aren't big enough to do it yet.' Of course, this doesn't apply to a child who is stuck and needs help getting down safely, or a child who needs to see how it's done once before attempting it on their own."

From floridamom: "Instead of hanging from the monkey bars, they seem to be climbing on top of them, which makes me cringe. My reaction is to say... get down from there, that's not how you use them and you are going to fall, but it really isn't any different than climbing on the things designed for climbing."

From amalimanga: "My kids are climbing, climbing, climbing, up as high as they can go. My 5-year-old son, Andrew, takes risks and has always been all over the equipment; I think his antics are encouraging my other two boys to push themselves a little. Andrew's favourite thing to do is walk along parallel bars! My reaction is just to smile and encourage them! They are getting exercise, building muscle and having fun! And I'm so proud of their independence."

From playparks: "We played at the beach and in the pool a lot over the holiday weekend. There was a lot of boundary-pushing and limit-testing going on -- especially since it's early in the summer. My instinct was to 'help' right away. However, I just kept wiggling in my chair, but not jumping in, while watching them try new tricks and get braver in the water. My daughter is five and she really improved in just a weekend. I feel more secure in her abilities and I think she does, too. (I had my eyes on them at all times, though. I used to be a lifeguard.)"

From steet: "We visited one of our absolute favorite parks over the holiday weekend. We've been going for about two years now and my son always watched as the older kids climbed the play structure to sit on top of the bus instead of inside of it. He's been growing like a weed and THIS time, he was able to make it to the top! He was so proud of himself and anything that makes him proud, makes me proud too!"

What risks have your children taken while playing this summer? Did you intervene?

Photo by .michael.newman. (cc).

parent perspective, risk, mom, summer challenge, parenting