Tree Houses, Parachutes and Safe Risks

JayneBy: Jayne Griffin
Director of Education

The Magic Tree House™ Traveling Exhibit is coming to Creative Discovery Museum this summer. The title from this wonderful book series always reminds me of the words I so often heard from my mother – “He did WHAT?”-  after I dutifully and routinely reported my big brother’s adventures.

MTH treehouse (lg)

The Magic Tree HouseTM Traveling Exhibit

These adventures included making  a  parachute from a handkerchief to slow his jump from my aunt’s 8 foot tall chicken house, using scrap pieces of plywood to make a boat that would float in the creek (of course, it sank instead), and  building a tree house using real hammers and nails that was too fragile to hold even our pet dog.

My mother always said my brother’s adventures made her hair turn gray, but my brother’s hair-raising adventures may reflect an important part of childhood that is missing for many children today. Keeping children safe is a primary role of good parenting, but research tells us that children who learn to take developmentally appropriate risks (with the guidance and protection of caregivers) are more resilient, more self-confident and may be better equipped to make judgments.

It’s important to find a balance between safe and risky play. Some ways to do this include

  • Making sure all reasonable safety precautions are taken.
  • Expecting that children will receive minor bumps and bruises
  •  Making behavioral expectations clear
  • Allowing adventures that are age appropriate

What happened to my brother? General Patrick O’Neal retired from the Army in 1999 after an amazing 30 year career that included war-time leadership. I am confident that his childhood adventures built a strong foundation for his capacity to lead our troops. My hope for all children is that they will be safe as they enjoy age appropriate risky adventures that add a sense of fun to childhood and preparation for adulthood.

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