Like most parents, you probably spend a lot of your time trying to keep your daughter safe. When’s the last time you thought about how to give her risk?
Kids need risk. Girls, especially, are often protected from it. And that stunts their growth and potential.
Risk is simply part of being human. It’s how we learn, make mistakes, gain self-confidence and come up with new ideas. It’s how we make new friends, cope with conflict and stand up for ourselves. Risk gives children the chance to try out the world.
Childhood is a vital time for kids to practice taking risks of all sorts: physical, social and creative.
Girls deserve space and encouragement for physical action like climbing, jumping, balancing and roughhousing. Experience with physical risk helps kids gain balance, strength and dexterity – thus reducing their risk of getting hurt. She’ll also develop a better sense of her own limits.
- Drop ‘be careful’ It’s vague and adds unnecessary fear. Next time you have the urge to warn your daughter, stay silent or offer specific information. “The steps are icy.” “Look at your feet – you’re near the edge.” “Someone’s behind you.”
- Roughhouse Family wrestling games are good fun, and they teach kids to be flexible, respond quickly, take risks and be aware of others (knowing how to keep it fun and knowing when to stop).
- Welcome logs and rocks Playgrounds are good for risk, but nature’s playground is even better. Find a tree to climb. Balance on a log. Let your daughter scramble and climb from rock to rock. Jump over small streams. Show kids how to fall properly (by rolling) and let them have fun.
Social risk is a huge area for girls. Girls can start taking healthy social risks from toddlerhood on. Social risk teaches your daughter how to stand up for herself, develop resilience and gain friends and protect friends.
- Facing conflict Children need the risk of facing conflict, whether it’s a toy being wrongfully snatched from them, or other disagreement. Girls will gain tremendously be learning how to say ‘no,’ speaking up when they don’t like something, and confronting the other person directly.
- Setting limits on peers All children need to learn how to set limits on peers – and practice doing it. Kids need to know that they can set a “rule” on a playmate, such as “don’t knock down my tower.” Ask kids: “Did you like what she just did?” Teaching kids to take action when they don’t like something is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child.
- Embrace rejection Asking a new friend to play is a social risk. Your daughter might be rejected from time to time. Experiencing occasional rejection helps kids develop resilience. It’s not the end of the world if someone says ‘no.’ The next person might say ‘yes.’
Risk comes through ideas, too. Give your child lots of time to play and pursue her own ideas.
- Do art without models Sometimes we have so much fun with crafts that we forget kids have different needs. Your daughter’s creative ideas will appear if she isn’t trying to mimic a model. Demonstrate techniques, but don’t limit your daughter to completing a craft project the way it looks in the picture. Art should be about letting kids express their own ideas.
- Choose basic toys The best toys are ones that serve multiple play ideas. Stock the play area with blankets, hats, boxes, etc. Open-ended toys allow children to explore the ideas inside them.
- Keep open days Creative ideas need time and space to flourish. Cut down on structured activities and make sure your daughter has blocks of 1-2 hours to explore her own ideas.
Childhoood is a time of risk. Constant risk. Taking risks involves occasional bruises and hurt feelings, but it also develops strong, healthy and resilient daughters. Remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.