The dangerous things you should let your kid do
by Caspar Walsh
Do you find yourself in a state of low-level panic when you see a child with a box of matches, a knife or your car keys clenched in their little fist? Why? As a child I used to leap across London’s labyrinthine roofs and set fire to things that were hard to put out.
Truth is, I survived and thrived on the daily danger I put myself in. There’s something tangible in my personality as a ‘grown up’ that is irrefutably connected to the risks I took back then – and the successes I have experienced since. I would want the same for my child, boy or girl.
Controlling fire is a way of learning the power of one of our most fundamental elements. Playing with tools is a way of extending the self into the world. Our brains are built for throwing things, namely spears. If you don’t use these fundamental parts of who you are, your mind and indeed your spirit, diminish. This is the premise of Gever Tulley’s brief but utterly enlightening talk, which is more of a call to arm your children than warn you of the never-ending perils of play.
It’s fair to say we live in a world gone crazy for health and safety, and the price paid is a generation of far less adventurous children more interested in jumping from buildings on a Playstation screen than the treetops of their local forest.
Gever puts forward the case simply and succinctly: we need to stop obsessively protecting children from learning about the world through potentially dangerous play and exploration. Maybe if we watch how they evolve naturally, playing wild in the world, we can learn to let them survive and thrive and maybe take a few more risks ourselves; and embark on the kind of adventure that makes life worth living.
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