This safety organisation claims we need to let children play more dangerously
As far as parenting is concerned, there is a fine line between keeping your children safe and alive while also allowing them to develop and learn in the way that children should.
I think these days, children are far more over-protected and wrapped in cotton wool than what used to be the case back in the day, a development many warn is actually doing more harm than good.
In fact, a safety organisation in the Netherlands is now campaigning to encourage parents to let children play more dangerously.
According to The Telegraph, the national safety body VeiligheidNL has launched a campaign called “Risky play”, saying children should be encouraged to play with penknives, climb trees and light fires – albeit with appropriate supervision.
Project leader at VeiligheidNL, Judith Kuiper, warns that increasingly protective parents, schools and governments create children that aren’t learning to manage risk for themselves.
“There is more child obesity, and there are initiatives to get them to move more and eat more healthily,” Kuiper explains. “This initiative has a wider goal: it aims at what we call ‘risk competence’, so children become more independent and better at protecting themselves."
In the UK, it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk, and parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised “in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health”.
But Kuiper claims we need to reign back on the over-protection.
“If they are properly guided, a child of five can light a fire, sometimes even a four-year-old. You should warn them that it’s hot and you shouldn’t stand on the wrong side if there is wind. But they should learn to handle fire, rather than you saying: ‘Don’t do that. It’s dangerous!’”
Obviously, parents need to be sensible, and Kuiper says the campaign is about nuance.
“A child of two should not be left alone by open water, but this might be fine for a child of seven with a swimming [proficiency] diploma,” she said. “There’s a social tendency for children to be more protected, pampered and regulated but in Scandinavia and Canada we’re seeing a counter movement to allow children to be more free.”
The campaign was inspired by a survey of 1,000 Dutch parents by TNS NIPO, which found 79% would be happy to let their children take risks while playing, but were constrained by fear of injury and others’ disapproval.