Can kids benefit from risky play?
“Helicopter parents” – moms and dads who seem to hover over their kids’ every move – may be limiting the physical and social benefits their children can gain from “risky” play, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Child and Family Research Institute found that children who engaged in more physical outdoor play such as jumping, climbing and rough-housing, while also being allowed a degree of solo exploring, displayed greater physical and social skills.
The study defined risky play as “thrilling and exciting play that can include the possibility of physical injury.” Researchers concluded that the overall positive health effects of risky play were more beneficial than avoiding it for safety purposes.
“We found that play environments where children could take risks promoted increased play time, social interactions, creativity and resilience,” lead author Mariana Brussoni said in a news release. “These positive results reflect the importance of supporting children’s risky outdoor play opportunities as a means of promoting children’s health and active lifestyles.”
“Kids need active free time for play,” she says. “It helps with imagination, motor development, social skills, self-esteem and weight management. Let kids be kids and play without being a helicopter hovering parent.”
“These spaces give children a chance to learn about risk and learn about their own limits,” Brussoni said.
But, overly-rigid playground standards and too much adult supervision can stifle children’s play activity. The study noted that there has been a noticeable decline in risky outdoor play opportunities for recent generations of children.
“Monitoring children’s activities may be a more appropriate approach than active supervision, particularly for older children,” Brussoni said. “We recommend considering policy, practice and building environmental approaches to risky outdoor play that balance safety with children’s other health outcomes.”
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