Nurturing risk management with your toddler

Nurturing risk management with your toddler sounds scary when you want to wrap them in cotton wool. But this is doing them no favours.

As I have explored in other posts, the first three years of your child’s life will see them form around 80 per cent of their basic brain architecture.  By the toddler years their brain is now packed with twice as many connections as your adult brain.  But now, pruning will begin.  A stripping away of seemingly unimportant connections while those repeatedly exercised are locked into place.  All of which is taking place during these irreplaceable formative years.

Help your child make the most of this time by grasping every experience afforded to them

But to do this, your child needs to be full of self-esteem, happy, confident and willing to have a go.  Even when this means taking a risk or making a mistake.  And all of this requires positive experiences as they learn all they need to know about their world.  And the confidence to find their place within it.  So, take care not to attempt to shield your child from these experiences, or undervalue their importance.

Nurturing risk management is a part of this process and removing obstacles physically or mentally is grossly misguided

Children want and need suitably risky challenges to learn how to manage them and themselves.  Developing confidence in their capabilities and in their ability to keep themselves safe. 

Children do not seek out risks they are not yet ready for.  They are unlikely to put themselves in unnecessary or unmanageable danger.  When they are trusted, they will stop climbing a tree when it feels too high or if branches seem unstable.  But this level of judgement can only come when they are given opportunities to establish their perception of risk and ability. 

Think about the level of risk each environment exposes your child to

And then ask yourself whether these risks can be managed – not removed, but made manageable by your child? 

When we offer our children these experiences, they are given opportunities to experience their success.  This also gives them the chance to persist through difficulties and potential setbacks.  This then gives them the satisfaction that comes through accomplishing something, ready to embrace future challenges. 

Wrapped in cotton wool, children are not learning how to manage in the real world.  And when they do then experience the risks that will come their way, they will do so without respect for the potential danger involved.  Or have learnt to fear any level of risk.  Missing out on the opportunities that it could have brought.

Draw out a risk assessment for the garden that you check together before they can play in it

Involve your child in your risk assessments, the only person who really knows how the risk relates to them.  Teach them that taking a risk involves careful judgment, as they balance possible harm against potential benefit and outcomes.  And enjoy the discussion and cooperation that these talks can offer you. 

Your child is learning holistically.  This means that they are interweaving ideas and thoughts through all areas of their development.  Provided that is, that they have the access to them.  Support and encourage their enquiries through rewarding, open ended challenges where they can explore their ideas, unafraid of making mistakes. 

Balance familiar, logical routines with opportunities for your child to help plan.  With creative ideas and decision making as they imagine what comes next, taking risks and experiencing the benefits.

This article is taken from our course: The Learning Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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