Worth the Risk

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

It's occurred to me that over the past month I have heard a particular word on many different occasions. The word is risk. I regularly receive emails about "Managing Church Risk." Risk is used repeatedly when listening to financial news reports. And it was a word that was emphasized at a recent day-long conference held at the Botanic Gardens.

At this April conference presented by the Alliance for Early Childhood on Outdoor Play, Joan Allman was the keynote speaker. I have referenced Joan before when talking about the importance of play in children's daily activities. At the conference, the focus was on outdoor activities and the element of risk involved in letting children explore natural surroundings: jumping off rocks, climbing trees, walking on a log over a creek.

These are examples of three things that many adults have probably done as children, but it is getting more and more difficult to find opportunities for today's children to have the same experiences. Playgrounds tend to be very "buttoned down" - no chance for injury with the risk of the property owner getting sued. And yet, it is proven that free, unstructured playtime gives kids a chance to discover their interests and tap into their creativity.

Risk is a crucial element for building resilience in children, an attribute they will need in order to become happy, productive adults. But you have to let them take those risks. A child will learn how to recover from a mistake after testing the limits of risk, but won't learn much if the mantra is always "play it safe." A child's free play is full of risk-taking, and this frightens the many parents, teachers, and supervising adults who have become adverse to this concept. The conclusion by many who have studied this is universal: give children risks and they will rise to the challenge.

So, with that bit of advice, I wish you all an adventurous summer, full of wonder and excitement, and the joy that comes with taking risks!