My daughters, Lea and Mika rolled off the bed at 5 and 6 months old, respectively. Both incidences happened on my watch when I just turned my back for a split second. The sound of the fall was so loud that my husband who was standing in the kitchen could hear it.
Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking as it happened twice with two different babies. Oh wait; I wasn’t thinking because I was trying to juggle multiple things at once. It was an accident but the guilt – oh the guilt ate me up. Thank goodness both of them turned out fine with no concussions or broken bones.
Needless to say, my children have always been very curious from a young age. In fact entering their tween and teen years; they still are. They love discovering and trying out things. The thing is as parents our goal is to ensure that our children are safe but at the same time we want them to be confident risk takers. If we are constantly going to be in protective mode; our children will be afraid to explore which will stagnate their learning process and development. But taking risks and seeking adventure in one’s childhood encompasses falls, bumps, bruises and skinned knees.
When Lea and Mika learnt to walk for the first time they stumbled and fell over a lot. We didn’t rush over to pick them up; they would get up and start again. This was all part of developing that milestone to walk. Although we safeguarded the house by moving furniture with sharp edges to prevent serious injuries, we couldn’t protect them from every fall. They fell many times and eventually they were sturdy on their feet and could balance themselves to walk.
Childproofing your home can prevent household accident but what if these accidents happen outside of the home. Being scratched by the neighbour’s cat has taught my youngest daughter not to pull his tail. Jamming a finger in the drawer at a friend’s house was a valuable lesson not to scratch and snoop around.
Of course allowing my girls to climb up the slide or jungle gym for the first time by themselves; sent shock waves through my system. Being cautious, I assisted them to climb up as I was afraid they would fall.
“Be careful, don’t fall, don’t go there, you are going to hurt yourself”. These auditory cues hinders the brain to develop adaptive responses to prevent falling and it makes children more anxious. So the older they got and with multiple trips to the park I eventually learnt to relax and not to panic when they climbed high.
Naturally my children never walked like normal humans when they entered a park. Out of excitement they would always run. And with running they would trip, fall and end up with a few bumps, bruises and skinned knees. The degree of their injuries were assessed from a distance. Often it would go unnoticed if they didn’t cry or no blood was gushing out. They would simply get up, dust themselves off and continue playing.
Riding a bike without training wheels and roller skating also resulted in a few falls, bumps, bruises and skinned knees. However they persevered and got it right.
Climbing up a tree is also a risk my children take; however my husband would always assess the height and stability of the tree first. He also prefer to supervise this activity and would guide them how to climb up and down.
The best form of risk taking is outdoor play and exploring the great outdoors. Not only does it develop sensory skills; children will learn new things about themselves, the environment, how to respect the environment and how to push their boundaries.
Children are missing out on so much when they are constantly indoors watching TV, playing video games or busy on their tablets and phones. Besides the fact that they are deprived from fun they will not learn how to keep themselves safe, to be resilient, understand that it is ok to fail and make mistakes, handle stressful situations, develop coping skills, be independent and have self-confidence.
Other mom’s probably judge me for allowing my children to be risky. My own mother has raised her eyebrows a few times as my children always sport a blue mark on the leg and a scratch here and there. When my youngest was four years old she had to get stitches close to her left eye because of a slip and fall accident.
Then a couple of weeks ago; we discovered a new park with a zipline. I encouraged both of my daughters to try it out. And as luck would have it; Mika went ziplining at full speed and knocked her head on the same spot she received stitches a few years ago. Nothing serious, just a blue mark that has since disappeared. This was a learning curve and now they know that they should wear helmets when ziplining again.
But have I really neglected my children and allowed them to get hurt in the process?
I think not.
As parents we will never intentionally expose our children to dangerous situations that will cause them serious harm. It is our responsibility to assess the situation first and then make a call on that. You see there is a difference between taking risks and danger and we need to teach our children that. Risk is when something might happen whereas with danger there is a high probability that something will happen. They should be able to identify and recognise the difference between the two.
Below is what I regard as dangers during play, not just outdoor play but inside as well. Also note that my perspective might differ from that of others and you might find a few things on my list to be part of risky play.
Dangerous play would include the following:
- Allowing your child to play with matches without telling him/her about the dangers of fire.
- Playing in hazardous areas where electric wiring are exposed or poisonous, flammable chemicals are accessible.
- Not teaching your child about water safety and at the same time allowing him/her to get into a swimming pool or dam; knowing full and well he/she can’t swim.
- Allowing your child to play on unsafe and defective playground equipment.
- Playing near construction sites with unsafe work surfaces, scaffolding, trucks and tractors.
- Not safeguarding your gun or riffle and keeping it out of reach of your child.
- Playing with sharp knives and spears without knowing how to handle it.
- Not taking safety precautions with reachable boiling water and hot oil that is on the stove especially when there are young children in the house.
- Extreme rough play that will result in serious injury.
Accidents will happen regardless of whether all hazards have been eliminated from the area. Some accidents are unforeseen and it is important that we as parents don’t beat ourselves up about it and lay on the guilt when our children get hurt. Have the first aid kit handy and the emergency numbers on speed dial as you never know what will happen. But do allow your child to take risks and should it mean a couple of falls, bumps, bruises and skinned knees then so be it.