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Healthy risk-taking for preschoolers: Here's what to know

It's important for children's growth and self-esteem that caregivers allow them safe space to explore.
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It can be a bit scary allowing your child to take risks, but it is an important part of how they learn, and as long as they're safe, risk-taking is a great way for you to support their development. As with most learning, children grow at different ages and paces. Some children take big risks easily, not understanding potential dangers or harm that can result. Others are more cautious and have a hard time dealing with new experiences. No one knows your child like you do, and it’s likely that you already know where your child falls on the risk-taking spectrum. At this age, a risk can be as simple as starting school for the first time or meeting another child. For some adventurous children, a risk could be jumping off a swing before it stops moving or trying to climb a tree or counter space.

Try to let your child learn on their own and challenge him or herself with their own activities. For example, if you’re at the park and she wants to try a slide or swing that may be a bit too big for her, let her try. She may surprise you and herself. Always watch your child when he is attempting something new or in a new surrounding, and set clear boundaries about where risk-taking can happen. Swimming pools, parking lots, and traffic intersections are not places to take risks. While it is good to encourage exploration, it is also important to monitor your child so you can step in if there is any risk of serious harm.

Try to let your child have new experiences. Maybe they start dance or music lessons, or visit a museum or join a different playgroup. Any time your child is out of their comfort zone, they are experiencing a risk. By giving a safe space to explore and take risks, you are supporting their growth and development.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Judy Willis, Neurologist, Teacher, Author, International Lecturer, University of California, Santa Barbara; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Sean Slade, Director of Outreach, ASCD.