Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Kids need the adventure of 'risky' play

The Play England study quotes a number of play providers who highlight the benefits to children of taking risks. 'Risk-taking increases the resilience of children,' said one. 'It helps them make judgments,' said another. Some of those interviewed blamed the 'cotton wool' culture for the fact that today's children were playing it too safe, while others pointed to a lack of equipment or too much concrete in place of grass. The research also lists examples of risky play that should be encouraged including fire-building, den-making, watersports, paintballing, boxing and climbing trees.

Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet.com, an online forum for mothers, said that parents only wanted to protect their children. 'It is the mums and dads that have to deal with the bruises and cuts,' she said. 'But broadly speaking I think that we will have to be brave and allow our children to take physical risk because, within reason, that is the way that they learn.

'When you see your two-and-a-half year-old on a climbing frame your heart is in your mouth and that is normal but I think most parents realise that at some point their children have to take physical risks; most recognize the benefits of learning through play. We can be overprotective but it is impossible to wrap children in cotton wool.'


When I was kid, we would go out to this crazy-ass rope swing built on a high hill and throw ourselves out over a creek, let go and fly to land on the other side. We would also steal the neighbor's older brother's go-cart and careen around the neighborhood at high speed, build forts in hillsides, play for HOURS in suburban construction sites on and around the heavy machinery, walk across beams over basement pits and walk up the glass strewn "Rat's Alley" behind by the recycling center and smash bottles back down the water overflow causeway. Don't even get me started with fireworks.

Not once did I ever get injured, or seen anyone get injured. Which is why my favorite place in St. Louis is the City Museum built out of an old shoe factory, filled with rebar and concrete. A great place to walk out with a contusion and/or bleeding scalp.

Remember parents: Quit being such pussies. You're parents weren't and look how you turned out.

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