All humans are ‘hardwired’ to take risks from birth, whether it is taking a first breath, a first roll or a first step. Children have an enthusiasm for making their own choices, investigating and exploring, questioning and experimenting and this is all part of taking risks. Children face the risk of mistakes, but that does not deter them. They embrace play, and risk, with gusto, and are prepared for a certain amount of bumps and bruises along the way!
All children both need and want to take risks from a very young age in order to explore their own limits, venture into new experiences and to develop their capacities. Children would never learn to walk, to climb stairs or to ride a bicycle unless they were strongly motivated to respond to challenges that involve risk.
When children push themselves, they develop the self confidence that comes from conquering fears and mastering new skills. The freedom to act, combined with independence-enhancing skills, allows the child to develop autonomy and gain the experience and confidence needed to fulfil their potential as a child and an adult. Growing up in a risk-averse society, as we currently have, means children are often not able to practice risk-assessment, which enables them to match their skills with the demands that they see. As a result, many children have become very timid and are reluctant to take risks.
Whilst there is and, always will be, a priority on safeguarding children in our nursery and pre-school, we are also confident in our own competence and to ‘take a risk ourselves’. Over the coming months, you may well see some new resources around and initiatives taking place as we carefully plan for and consider how children have the opportunity to take risks and approach challenges. What better environment for them to do so than where practitioners will already have removed hazards not easily identifiable to young children and will provide well-managed opportunities for appropriate risk-taking to take place?