You want your children to be safe, but they won’t thank you for wrapping them in cotton wool. Children have curious natures and want to explore, climb, wriggle into small spaces and sometimes seem to have no fear.
Before the advent of Health and Safety, kids climbed trees, scrambled up rocks and swung on ropes over water. Generally they survived unscathed and, even if there was a mishap, they revelled in their wounded soldier status. Today things are different and kids are discouraged from doing anything potentially dangerous without supervision.
Satisfy their curiosity
Encourage your children to explore their environment, initially under your watchful eye. Answer their questions and, as they get older, teach them how to find answers for themselves. Be ready for questions like ‘Why is gorse prickly?’ and ‘Can you build a tree-house?’ when they’re young. If you feed their curiosity they’ll retain that sense of adventure that makes life worth living.
Teach them about risk
As children get older they don’t want to be watched constantly. That means that you’ll need to teach them the basics of risk assessment. Before you run screaming for the hills at the idea of form filling and trying to explain to your 8-year-old the finer points of risk assessment, let’s keep it practical.
Every time you get out of bed you automatically assess the risks in your surroundings. You don’t have to carry out a risk assessment to live in your home – but it’s full of hazards, from stairs to cupboard doors at head height. You look at what’s around you and decide what’s the best thing to do. That’s the level of risk assessment you need to teach your kids.
If you fall in the water when swinging from that branch, how will someone know to come and rescue you?
If you swing from that branch, can you get back into the tree without difficulty?
If you wear flip flops to climb those rocks, what are the chances that you’ll slip and hurt yourself – or lose a shoe?
You get the idea?
If you teach your children to think first, they’ll get into less trouble and realise that you’re treating them as responsible people, allowing them to make decisions for themselves. Start young and slowly, let them explore for themselves and the lessons you’ve taught them will keep them safer without squashing their desire for adventure.