Kids like to take risks, some more than others. The adults can make sure the risk is acceptable, but we can’t eliminate all risk nor should we try. Children gain a lot from risk including confidence.
Too often we try to boost children’s confidence by heaping praise on them. But saying “Good job!” a hundred times is fairly meaningless compared to letting a child climb a tree or run up a slide. The challenge followed by the accomplishment (maybe after several tries) is much more fulfilling.
It is true that children may get a few more bumps and bruises, but they will make up for that in pride. But that’s not all–
A few years ago I had taken my preschool class to a picnic at an assisted living facility that we visit every other week. I was on one end of the outdoor area playing parachute games with several children. On the other side, some of the children were going up and down a rocky slope (maybe 4′ high) that led to a dry overflow ditch. One of the workers from the facility asked if that was OK. My teacher-brain immediately thought I shouldn’t let them, but I thought about what I have been learning about the need for risk, so I said, “Maybe I should go over and see.”
I walked over and watched the kids go up and down on the rocks. As their confidence built, some of the kids quickened their pace. I did mention that some rocks might be loose, but I doubt anyone heard me. They continued going up and down for about five minutes before sitting down for food.
I know that if this happened five years earlier, I would have stopped it, and maybe had them go down on the grassy part of the slope. But they chose the rocks because it was a challenge and more risky and therefore more fun. They ran for about five minutes, smiling the whole time. Not only did it boost their confidence in themselves, it boosted my confidence in them as well.