We make hundreds of decisions a day that each contain some amount of risk: whether or not to drive through that yellow light, to eat that questionable-looking sushi, or ask the boss for a day off…

What is a risk? According to the dictionary, a risk is the “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.”

Children take risks every day, too. But their risks look much more trivial to us adults.  

Risk-taking in childhood may look like:

  • Climbing a tree – and risking a scraped knee
  • Telling the teacher about something a bully said – and risking that bully getting angry
  • Saying something difficult to a friend – and risking damaging a friendship
  • Playing pretend – going through the motions of imagined “risky” situations.  

Believe it or not, children are learning a lot about themselves through these activities.

In climbing the tree, a child is discovering his physical abilities and limitations as he reaches for the next higher branch.

In telling a teacher about a bullying situation, a child is standing up for what she feels is right, and is discovering her courage.

In saying something difficult to a friend such as, “I don’t like it when you take my things without asking,” a child is asserting himself and establishing critical personal and social boundaries.

And, in playing pretend, a child is developing these skills by practicing what she might do in a wide array of situations.  Now, she’s more ready for the real thing.

These types of childhood risks are the sort of thing we see every day in Kindermusik class.  A toddler takes a social risk in approaching a friend to give him a hug. Another child takes a physical risk by trying to jump a little higher or twirl a little longer.  No, these don’t sound like risks to us adults, but to young children these are monumental moments of learning.