Most parents don’t have to think hard to remember a time their kids got hurt playing. In fact, you’ve probably saved them from worse things than little injuries. For example, maybe you once desperately chased after them as they walked right, right up to the edge of a cliff during the family hike. Or, perhaps you found yourself going for an unexpected swim after your three-year-old decided to learn to swim in the eight-foot-deep side of the pool. In any case, you probably learned a while ago that your kids are great at making any situation dangerous.
Unfortunately, there have probably also been many times you got to a less urgent situation a little too late. For instance, you’ve probably dealt with boo boos after your kid suddenly decided to nose dive into the monkey bars. And you’ve possibly had at least one kiddo in a cast after they decided to backflip out of a tree they climbed.
As you must know, kids get hurt playing all the time. But why do they continue to do it?
Why Kids Like to Play in Dangerous Ways
According to PsychologyToday, kids constantly play in ways that could hurt them because it teaches them lessons they can’t learn any other way. In fact, putting themselves in dangerous situations helps kids learn to regulate their emotions. When they’re in situations where they can get hurt, kids practice being afraid and upset. In other words, kids are programmed to play in dangerous ways because it lets them cope with emotions they don’t feel very much otherwise.
What Happens if Kids Don’t Get Chances to Get Hurt Playing?
Of course, we want kids to play hurt-free, even if they’re playing in scary ways. But kids who don’t even have the chance to play in scary, dangerous ways also miss the chance to grow emotionally. In fact, kids who don’t engage in risky play are more likely to have emotional disorders. Those disorders include anxiety, depression, anger issues, and difficulty managing stress. Naturally, those problems also won’t go away overnight when they become adults.
To make a point, it’s important for kids to play in ways that might let them get hurt. So, if you have to give them those opportunities, how can you make those risks as safe as possible?
How You Can Help Kids Play Without Getting Hurt
- Set your own ideas about age-appropriate risks. Obviously, you’re not going to let your three-year-old wander the streets alone. But what age will you let them do it? No matter how old they get, you’ll always see them as a kid, so making plans for what ages they’ll get more freedom is important.
- Talk to kids about where the boundaries are with dangerous play. During these discussions, make sure you’re not using fear to influence them. Instead, set boundaries in a way that takes age and natural interests into account. Remember, respect your child’s ideas: they’re smarter than you think.
- Train your kids so that they can find their own way around, and have the information they need to get back home.
- Provide the right equipment and training for kids to do things in a safe way. For instance, if your kid loves to climb, take them to a climbing gym. Let them learn proper techniques and the importance of a harness and helmet. It’s better to prepare kids than try to control them. Also, if you take them to Coconut Cove, they’ll have lots of opportunities to challenge their fears in a safe, controlled environment.
- Don’t stress too much about it. In some ways, kids are surprisingly good at knowing what’s best for them. Sometimes, you can have some closure if you just trust that things will work out for the best.
In conclusion, it might be scary as a parent to let your kids take risks. When they’re hurt, you feel pain for them. However, those risk-taking behaviors will help them be stronger people for the rest of their lives, and allow them to grow in amazing ways.