Play, Risk, and the Image of the Child


If you’ve been following simply.cindy you may have gathered that I’ve been an Early Childhood Educator for a number of years.  Too many years to count.

When I started out in my career, I thought it was all about safety.  My number one priority was keeping children safe.  That was my guiding principle.  My mantra.

I’m happy to say, my mantra has changed.  What, you say?  You are not concerned with safety?  But those children you work with are so young, so vulnerable? 

At the beginning of my career, if I saw this child (pictured below) my inner voice would be saying “Where are you going with that ladder?”  “Why does a program with very young children have ladders anyway?  What are they thinking?” “Is this even safe?”


What has changed, you ask?  My image of the child changed. I now see children as people who are capable, people who are learning.  And the only way to learn is by taking risks! 

“A ship is safe in the harbour but that is not what it was built for.” -William H. Shedd

Just like the ship, children were built for exploration and discovery.

When I look at the photo now I see a capable young man with a purpose.  He has a plan for that ladder and knows he can move it where it needs to go.  He is about to climb that ladder, take a risk and do something that, without that ladder, could not be done.

One day, he may own a home.  Will he call someone else to come and fix a shingle on the roof or clean out the gutters?  Probably not.  He will know he is capable of doing such things.  He has already had experience with ladders.  He has already tested himself and knows he can move one around and climb it easily.  He knows he needs to be careful because  he has tried it before.  He knows he needs to hold on with both hands and to make sure the bottom of the ladder is placed in a stable position before starting to climb.

By taking the risks he has learned how to be safe and that he is capable and can use a ladder with confidence.

So my mantra as an experienced Early Childhood Educator?  Take risks!  Test your ideas!  Get messy!  When I look at my preschool class I now see a group of capable children and who are learning every day.

When do your children have opportunities to take risks?



9 thoughts on “Play, Risk, and the Image of the Child

  1. As usual, highly insightful Cindy. I wish I’d had your wisdom and foresight when my kids were small.


  2. As parents, we understand that risk-taking is an important part of the growth process. And yet, when we see in in action, it is often so difficult to stay on the sidelines and allow them to experience the process on their own!

    Thank you for sharing & for affirming that we are doing the right thing even when it often feels like maybe we aren’t protective enough to cushion all the falls!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really have to remind myself to step back a little at times and allow things to happen. I try to ask myself what’s the worst that can happen and also look at what a child might gain from the experience. Without risk there is no reward.


  3. wonderful post!
    loved the bit about get messy 🙂
    As an early childhood educator, you have the care and welfare of the child to consider. So Safety would be a big factor!
    As an artist, when I saw the photo… I thought, “what is he Creating?”


    1. Safety is always a factor but we must not allow it to hinder children’s development and growing sense of competence.

      I love getting the artist’s perspective. Thank you for that!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. you’re welcome!
        Loved your posts on children & the outdoors.
        Having grown up in the NW, playing outside …. was magic!
        Beats being cooped up playing ipad. 🙂


      2. I feel very fortunate to live on the west coast. No matter where a child lives being outdoors is essential! So glad you’ve enjoyed the posts. Thanks for taking the time to read them.

        Liked by 1 person

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