Top 10 dangerous things you should let your children do

The bumps and bruises of childhood are slowly being micro-managed out of existence and adventurer Bear Grylls thinks it’s doing our children a disservice.

“You empower kids by teaching them how to do something dangerous, but how to do it safely,” he said in a recent interview.

From his home in the UK, the survival expert is pushing for basic skills such as lighting a fire and tying a knot be added to the school curriculum.

Danger with precautions put in place is essential for every child's development.
Danger with precautions put in place is essential for every child's development. Photo: Getty

If parenting advice from a urine drinking, rotten camel eating, adrenalin junkie isn’t for you, child health expert Jan Murray of Settle Petal also sits on the same side of the fence as Bear. “There’s a fine line between keeping children safe and encouraging the development of their independence, competence and self-esteem by allowing them some freedoms to take risks,” she says.

She explains children learn through trial and error and an element of risk is important in understanding consequences for their actions. It can be difficult for parents to know at exactly what age to relax with the cautious behaviours though. Murray says children will all develop at different rates. “Prior experiences, associations, physical abilities and cultural expectations all come into play. It’s up to parental discretion. For example the freedom to cross the road alone is obviously not an option until parents are satisfied their child knows road rules and understands the concept of speed and distance,” she says.

The authorities on childhood adventure since 1958, Scouts Australia, are also advocates for responsible risk taking. “An adventure is a challenging journey or activity where the outcome is uncertain. The adventure of cooking a meal on an open fire can often have uncertain outcomes. Likewise sleeping out under the stars might end up in as a very cold night, or clouds could come in and it starts to rain. But in having adventures, in being challenged, we learn more about ourselves, and have some great experiences,” says Scouts Australia Deputy Principal Phil Harrison.

“With appropriate risk management, we can do ‘dangerous things’, just as long as we are prepared, have the right equipment and training, and have planned our adventure,” he adds.

With the help of Scouts Australia we’ve compiled the quintessential list of childhood adventure with the 10 dangerous things you should be letting your children do.

1. Cook on a fire: Cooking on a fire teaches a whole range of skills, including how to be safe with fire. Try a range of foods; marshmallows, potatoes, roast meats, bananas and chocolate. Always check with the relevant authorities about when and where to have a fire and only under adult supervision.  

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2. Sleep under the stars: Escaping civilisation can teach children a lot about the environment. Fresh air and some warm sleeping gear is the perfect way to have this experience. Looking at the night sky also teaches them plenty about the universe.

3. Paddle a canoe: Appreciate the outdoors from a different perspective. With the essentials of a lifejacket, helmet and supervision this is a fun activity for any swim-ready child.

4. Climb a tree: Expect cuts and scratches, but this is an essential skill of any childhood.

Cooking on a fire is a great experience for kids.
Cooking on a fire is a great experience for kids. Photo: Getty

5. Abseiling: Descending the face of a cliff with only a rope to hold you might seem terrifying, but with supervision and guidance it is perfectly safe and an activity that Scouts as young as eight enjoy.

6. Rock Climbing: Age-appropriate opportunities for rock climbing are everywhere and are a great way to test out gross motor skills like balance and co-ordination.

7. Make and swing on a rope swing: Big kids at heart will love the opportunity to reconnect with this childhood pastime with their own little ones.

8. Make a cubby under a tree: Imagination and nature compliment each other so well. For safety, be mindful of long grass and hot days and make plenty of noise to avoid unwelcome visitors like snakes.

9. Go rafting: Channel Huck Finn by building and floating your own raft. Perfect for practicing important knot tying skills which will stay with you for life.

10. Build a billy cart: Great for developing fine motor skills and the final product can be a source for hours of enjoyment and a little bit of friendly competition. Don’t forget the helmet!

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