OMGosh! What are the kids doing now?!!

I looked out the window and gasped – then closed my eyes, took a deep breath, counted to five and turned away. The kids were belly-flopping onto a stack of camping foamies beside the trampoline and I had to quell my initial impulse to shut it down with a holler.

My first thought was, ‘somebody’s going to break a body part!’…and then ‘oh no, what if I have to explain to Ben’s Mom how he broke his arm in my care’…and ‘what will she think of me?!’ Like many parents, I often wrestle with my inner control-freak.   But this time the kids’ delirious laughter won me over.

Lately I’m feeling more supported in a laissez faire approach by a growing body of evidence that says kids thrive on free play with an element of risk.

Dr. Brussoni presented her research at BCAHL’s most recent webinar on child development. She described how activities that children describe as thrilling and ‘a bit scary’ such as play involving speed, height, rough and tumble, and the potential to get lost – are the types of play where they are more active for longer periods of time and gain confidence from independence . Her research has also shown that risky play results in negligible levels of injury.

Another recent study on the determinants of outdoor active play also has results that won’t be surprising to anyone raising kids today. Included in the list of determinants are: perceived child competence, other children in the neighbourhood, good parenting ideal and the changing role of parents.

I certainly find that it’s easier to get kids outside, and that they have more fun, when there are other kids close-by to play with. And I’ve also experienced the withering glare of other parents at the playground who were obviously unaware of my boy’s physical competence and felt I didn’t measure up to the ‘good parenting ideal’.

It turns out safety concerns (read: parental fears) are the biggest barrier to outdoor active play.

Since we live on the Sunshine Coast – with lots of natural spaces and close to the ocean, my big fears for my children are cougars, drowning and cars (although less so than when we lived in Vancouver). For many parents, the biggest one is the fear of child abduction.

Just as irrational as my fear of cougars, the risks associated with stranger danger are miniscule. In Canada, reported crime in 2009 was at its lowest point since 1973. It’s estimated that about 2 children in 5 million are taken by complete strangers in Canada. In BC, in over 100 years, only 29 people have been attacked and only 5 killed by cougars.

So what are we worried about?! Given the opportunity, kids will learn how to negotiate small risks and physical challenges, increasing their competence and confidence. They will stretch their bodies with their imaginations and end up laughing hard as they play hard.

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager, Advocacy and Communications
July 2015

Post a comment