Preparing Kids to Take (Reasonable) Risks in the Outdoors

Helicopter parents who hover over their kids are easy to caricature. But every parent makes decisions every day that affect children’s safety, and those judgment calls aren’t always easy. Is your child ready to handle a sharp knife? Will you let her bike around the neighborhood alone? How about allowing him and his friends to go hiking without a parent trailing behind? And that whitewater rafting trip for a friend’s birthday—is it a good idea?

Kristen Laine, who used to write regularly for this blog, recently talked with Gever Tulley, co-author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), about some of these questions. The resulting article, “Knives, Axes, and Spears: Playing with sharp objects and other ‘dangerous’ ideas for kids,” got me thinking about other views on balancing safety and exploration, and preparing children to take appropriate risks. Here are a few pieces that have helped shape my thinking on the subject.

  • The Blessing of a Broken Arm?” in which Kristen Laine reflects on an injury her son sustains while bicycling, and the notion that “a parent’s duty is not to protect children from every conceivable situation where they might get hurt, but to let kids take reasonable risks and learn from the consequences.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Laine.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Heather Stephenson.

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AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.