Olympia Therapy: ‘The Payoffs of Risky Play Equal Healthier Kids’

Olympia Therapy: ‘The Payoffs of Risky Play Equal Healthier Kids’

Children at play are having fun, and at the same time they are learning developmentally at every turn. Playing involves physical skills and making judgements. Am I strong enough to climb over those rocks to get to the beach? How can I pick up jacks without touching the ones I want to save for the next turn? Getting pinched hurts. Cary Hamilton of Olympia Therapy sees what happens when children who have been over protected through their young years are later overwhelmed by anxiety because they are unable to make decisions. “Kids and parents are crashing and burning,” warns Cary, who encourages unpredictable play more often to decrease the stress. Risky play engages children to test their limits appropriate to their ages and stages. Photo courtesy: Olympia Therapy Parents can be challenged to understand that risky play offers big rewards for everyone.

Here’s an example of risky play using a family on a camping trip. The kids want to make s’mores. It’s alright for the kids to find out that putting a marshmallow close to the fire ignites it. It’s okay to let the kids add wood and stir the logs. It’s a chance to learn that fire is hot, and more so as you get nearer. Just hearing these phrases “Don’t get too close,” “Let me toast yours to golden brown,” or “You’re too young,” does not build skills. Parents can teach their children tools. Build the fire together, show how to safely light matches, get a pail of sand or dirt nearby for fire protection, and demonstrate cooking a marshmallow. Let the children participate and watch what happens.

Helping kids acquire skills requires patience from parents. It takes time and consistency. Unfortunately, “Kids don’t learn from osmosis,” says Cary, who emphasizes that telling youngsters repeatedly to be careful does not really keep them safe. It might be more helpful for them to learn and understand the three points of contact safety rule when climbing, for example.

It’s not possible to protect your child from life. Playing with measured risks is a way for children to understand consequences. Allow your kids to open their wings.

When a parent continually takes away risks and dangers, kids may initially avoid physical or mental pain, but then they don’t learn to make those decisions for themselves. Of course, there are developmental stages and ages. These call for different rules and boundaries, taking a risk still needs to play a part. Children fall when they are beginning to walk. As they go, they learn balance, proprioception, and that it is fine to get up and have another go at it.

No one wants their children to experience undo pain or suffering. That’s why it is essential for youngsters to make tiny missteps when they are small and build confidence and judgement along the way. Remember, as time goes by, life’s choices and consequences get tougher.

curaJOY Contributor
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