Researchers say kids need more ‘dangerous play’: Here’s what we think

Oct 15, 2015 at 2:00 a.m. ET
Image: Getty Images/ Helen Rushbrook

A new report out of the U.K. is suggesting that kids need more access to dangerous and challenging play time — like playing near cliffs! — in an effort to increase self-confidence and address risks of obesity.

The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group, encourages “risky play” in outdoor locations near “potentially dangerous” hazards such as cliffs and water.

“Societal fears about child safety have resulted in increased parental over-supervision… [who have] expressed a reluctance to allow their children to play outside, on grounds of burgeoning traffic levels, crime, harassment, violence, the possibility of abduction and even dirt and germs. The world beyond the front door is increasingly viewed as one that is hostile to children,” the report says.

It advocates for allowing an increasingly free approach to child play time, particularly “risky play, involving perhaps rough and tumble, height, speed, playing near potentially dangerous elements such as water, cliffs and exploring alone with the possibility of getting lost. This gives children a feeling of thrill and excitement and other accompanying benefits,” the report says.

More: The real reason schools shouldn't ban Halloween

These recommendations are all in the name of providing kids with an alternative to traditional playgrounds, where fencing, rubber flooring and bright colours are deemed too safe, unchallenging and unexciting.

The report urges parents and schools to offer “support for children to experience risk and challenges and develop resilience and self-reliance through play, both in their communities and in schools.”

In other words: It's the ultimate antidote to helicopter parenting and it’s certainly quite a divisive topic!

What do actual parents think about "dangerous play" research?

Angela, Sydney

Parents are always doing something wrong, whether it’s allowing their kids to play dangerously or not dangerously enough! Is there even a good balance? Personally, I will let my kids climb trees and ride motorbikes and do all that stuff when they're old enough; that’s what my childhood was like and I loved it. I can’t wait to watch my kids run around like crazy!

Nicole, Sydney

Sometimes, you have to fall over to learn how to get back up again. Metaphorically or otherwise, you have to get hurt to get stronger and learn how to deal with things in life. Not every day is huge and not everyone gets a trophy!

Natalie, Gold Coast

I think outdoors time every day is important. We often let our kids poke around our fenced front yard while we're washing the cars or gardening, and they pick flowers and discover beetles and get dirt under their fingernails. I don't know if I'd be comfortable with them being there without supervision, though.

More: 22 Tired babies who can't keep their eyes open a minute longer

David, Brisbane

Look, I'm not ashamed to admit it — I'm a helicopter parent. I can't help it. The thought of letting my daughters play in or near water while I'm not supervising actually makes me feel ill!

Libby, Northern NSW

I grew up in the country, where you didn't complain unless you could see the bone! I was riding dirt bikes at 8, and scrapes and grazes and falls were just a normal part of our childhood. When I have kids, I want them to have those kinds of experiences rather than just playing on an iPad all day.

Katherine, Gold Coast

When I was about 8 or 9, I used to leave my house on a Saturday morning and disappear with the neighbourhood kids all day. We would walk for what seemed like forever, poke around drains, climb trees and just generally explore. Now that I'm a parent, I can't imagine letting my kids disappear for hours on end! I guess a balance between the two would be ideal?

Claire, Sydney

We mollycoddle our kids way too much. How are they supposed to learn about things if they don't experience some of it for themselves?

More: Single mums share how they're braver than they imagined