Risk taking and toddlers. Not usually the words you would happily put together. However, studies show us that certain risk-taking behaviour in early childhood can have beneficial effects on emotional development. Of course, when we talk about risk-taking here, we are talking about small, safe steps under adult supervision, even if this supervision is from a safe distance. Actually, it’s even better if supervision is at a safe distance, as this promotes a growing sense of independence and trust.
When little ones have the opportunities to explore a safe space at their own pace and in their own time , with little to no interruption, it gives them the space and time to follow their own path, notice cause and effect of their actions and builds confidence to make decisions. Being able to make their own decisions during uninterrupted play and exploration builds a trust in themselves that promotes a strong sense of self and well-being.
This sense of trust stays with them in other areas of their lives. At school and beyond, they will have learnt that, while we all need help and guidance from our parents and teachers, by and large they’ve got this. They can make decisions about themselves and their actions that will impact positively on their relationships with others.
Risk-taking behaviour also provides little ones with opportunities to make choices. If I cross this bridge I will see what is on the other side, but if I stay I get to watch the stream run underneath. Making a choice means that little ones learn to live with the consequences of that choice. It helps them to learn that by making choices, you might be rewarded (is there something interesting over the bridge?) or you might not (the stream was far more interesting!) Learning this in early childhood builds a sense of confidence and trust to make more important decisions the older they get, when risk gets higher (GCSE options, friendship circles, job opportunities). It also helps them to learn how to live with decisions they’ve made.
Uninterrupted exploration encourages children to get a measure of their own capabilities. It gives them the chance to push their own limits and test themselves. This builds confidence and a sense of knowing themselves. Pushing their own limits and exceeding them allows for a sense of achievement and this helps them feel good about themselves. In a society where achievement in childhood tends to centre around school and studying, this can really help maintain a healthier balance.
Finally, allowing for safe risk-taking behaviour in early childhood promotes a healthy and life-long connection with nature as well as capturing a sense of the bigger world around them and their space in it. A healthy respect for themselves and nature will make for a very happy child and a very happy adult.
Please visit www.orchidale.co.uk to find out more about our wonderful Children's Nursery in Taverham, Norwich, Norfolk!