Let children do dangerous things

A short while ago I listened to a Ted Talk called "Five dangerous things you should let your children do." It was fun. Today I read a post on Open Education on the same topic and got thinking about that again. I watched the Talk again.

Gever Tulley, who runs a summer school where fourth graders play with power tools and "come back pretty bloody and scraped" suggests children should learn to manage dangerous and unsafe things by actually getting to experience them. How else do you learn, someone could say?

Here's his list:

  1. Play with fire: I did it. I was allowed to light the fireplace on my own, taught to do it by my father and did it in bonfires in friends' farms. I learned how to "control fire" and feel proud of doing it. Check. Thanks, mom and dad!
  2. Own a pocket knife: I was given my first pocket knife by my mom. It was actually just a blade. I was allowed to play with it all the time. Even throwing it at stuff in the back yard (stuff... never people, plants or animals). My parents, cousins and uncles always taught me to cut away from my body and be careful with knifes. They let me play with it and tended my cuts when I made a mistake and cut myself. I know how to use a knife. Thanks, mom and dad!
  3. Throw a spear: I don't remember throwing spears except javelins in phys. ed. class in middle school. However I was allowed  to own and play with a sling, throw rocks and participate in the greatest "guerras de bodoques"  with my neighboorhood friends. I don't have good aim, but this was all a lot of fun. It sometimes hurt and I got bruises, but it was great fun! Thanks, mom and dad!
  4. Deconstruct appliances: I was never a big fan of breaking things appart. I actually do it more now than before. But I did my share of damage. My cousin has always been awesome at it and always had projects: a home-built remote control car, radios, etc. I slept over and played with his deconstructed appliances. I also learned how to use power tools with my dad, not putting things appart but fixing them. He taught me how to use a drill, a hammer, a saw, an electric saw. I still enjoy "bricolage" and do some things. I am proud of my toolbox and recently bought my own drill. I also played with the old car, the Renault 6, since I was about 12, seeing how they fixed it and eventually fixing simple things in it myself. Later, when I owned my own motorcycle, I had to learn how to fix the carburator, the clutch and many other things, mostly by tinkering with it and breaking it. Thanks, mom and dad!
  5. Break the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act): No comment.
  6. Which is the second part of 5: Drive a car: My mom took me out driving since I was about twelve. The city was smaller and there were very empty streets close to home. On weekends we went out and I drove around. When I was even younger, my mom let me shift the gears in her car while she drove. I think I'm a pretty good driver and attribute part of it to being allowed to drive since I was young. Thanks, mom! And thanks dad, who always let me drive his car, even when I crashed it (driving without a license at age 15, remember, Jaime?) and got it stolen (at age 17).

I do agree that doing these dangerous things helped learn my limits and how to cope with some level of danger. I don't break easily and feel I'm still quite tough even though I never exercise. All this helped me grow up.

I sometimes feel children are nowadays way too overprotected by their parents and supervising adults. I don't have kids... but it seems I'm not the only one who thinks that. Writing about an English organization that promotes play in children (including "dangerous" play), Open education says:

PlayEngland’s focus this year has been on one of the most traditional of child behavior’s, climbing a tree. The group found that half of children aged 7-12 years reported they were not allowed to climb a tree without adult supervision while the other half reported they had been stopped from climbing trees because it was considered to be too dangerous.

I remember being in the third or fourth grade and having lots of fun climbing a tree behind the art classrom. Me and my friends (I don't remember who were my friends back then) had about a month of fun before Alice de Cuervo, the primary school director found out we were up there and made us climb down. Years later, when I was a teacher back in the same school, the tree had been felled. I missed it. It was a beatuful evergreen with sort of a roof top where we used play when we climbed. I also used to climb lots of trees around my parent's house with my neighborhood friends. It was also great fun and nobody ever told me to climb down. When I went to the park with my mom she even helped me climb trees that were to high for me to reach on my own. Wasn't she awesome?


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