Worth the Risk

by Mary Johnson, Children's Ministries and Director All Things Bright and Beautiful

For the 27th year, the Alliance for Early Childhood will host the Networking Dinner for professionals in the field of Early Childhood Education. And for the sixth year, the dinner will be held in the Great Hall at Holy Comforter. It has proven to be a perfect venue for the nearly 200 that attend the catered dinner.

A key component of the evening is a guest speaker. This year's speaker, Gever Tulley, will share his ideas and lessons from his experience as founder of The Tinkering School. Mr. Tulley has taught workshops, given presentations and TED talks, and has Authored the books Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Child Do) and Dangerism!

His premise is that with ever more stringent safety regulations we are cutting children off from valuable opportunities. Tulley suggest these four opportunities to raise kids who are creative, confident, and in control of their environment:

Play with fire. Unlock the mystery of one of man's greatest discoveries and learn about intake, combustion, and exhaust.

Own a pocket knife. The first universal tool that can be a spatula, a screw driver. And, yes, it does have a blade. What a great lesson to learn to cut away from the body.

Throw a spear. Kids are wired for throwing and it stimulates the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain. It requires physical and analytical skills as well as attention and concentration.

Deconstruct appliances. Before you throw out an old appliance, take it apart with your child to see what all the different pieces and parts are for.

While I may not be ready to commit to all of Mr. Tulley's Dangerous Things in our classrooms, I do believe we need to allow our children to take more risks. Risky play gives children the opportunity to extend their limits and learn life skills. Success and failure provide children with the motivation to try again and work out different ways of doing things.

When we first looked at playground designs for our play area, we wanted sufficient opportunities for the children to take risks. The climbing components are a huge hit, and when a once timid child musters the courage to climb the ladder for the first time, the look of excitement on the child's face is priceless!

So, while I will continue to celebrate the victories of the children climbing on the playground equipment or jumping off the lifeguard chair at the beach, I probably won't be doing any fire building or handing out pocket knives anytime soon.

The morning after the Networking Dinner, Friday January 20, Gever Tully will offer the same discussion, 5 (Dangerous) Things to Empower Your Child: The Importance of Risk-Taking Using Real Problems,  that is free and open to the public. It will be in the Great Hall from 9:30-11:00 a.m. You can register to attend at http://www.theallianceforec.org/.