Jan 30, 2018

AnjiPlay: Let's talk about Risk!

"Risk" is one of the five pillars of AnjiPlay and probably the most visible pillar and the one that gives the most people concerns about this educational approach.  Let's break down this concept and think about how "risk" and "danger" are not the same thing.  There are many different types of risk and generally, children will only feel confident exploring these risks if they have a sense of security that comes from the love the adult caregivers feel towards the child.  If you feel like you're in a dangerous situation already, you're less apt to want to dive into risky behavior, so first and foremost comes love (and a sense that adults respect the children and their capabilities) and once that's established, children can explore these different kinds of risk. (more after the jump)

Physical risk: This is the kind of risk that most adults think of when they first hear the words “risky play,” and it’s the kind of risk that makes us most nervous. But physical risk doesn’t have to mean danger (and, in fact, research shows that it often means the opposite, greater safety), it just means pushing yourself to the limit of your comfort zone and redefining those limits by doing something that you’re not sure if you can do. When you know that you’re responsible for your own safety, you’ll make lots of adjustments to your plan until you know that you can safely navigate the physical risk and only then proceed. OR…. You’ll just dive in, try it, perhaps getting a scrape or a bruise and learning about yourself in the process ! Everyone gets bumps and cuts at some point in their life, but if we give kids the responsibility to confidently take charge of their own movements, then if they get hurt, the lesson learned is implicit rather than being an “I told you to be more careful” moment.

 This is not to say that, as adults, if we see a child in imminent danger we won’t step in to keep them safe, it’s simply to say that that sort of stepping in should be as minimal as possible and not be followed with a storm of verbal warnings to “be careful.” The more we allow for risk, the more we understand the difference between danger and risk. It’s a careful balancing act best performed by the adults who know each child and their abilities most intimately. Watch closely, see how they’re feeling, catch them if they fall (but try not to hover), definitely comfort them if they get hurt (and grab a bandage or ice pack if necessary!), then give them the space to return to their play and try it again when they’re ready. It is also means that as adults, we must provide a baseline of safety in our children’s environments and materials. Children, for instance, shouldn’t climb bookcases or juggle knives (physical risks that are beyond their control or experience), but they should be given opportunities to climb and to cut.

There are also other kinds of risks that Anji Play embraces:

Social/emotional risk: What happens when one kid excludes another child or is in some other way “rude” in the eyes of adults? “Kids can be so cruel” – we’ve all heard people say that, and in some ways it’s true, but in essence, when kids treat other children in a certain way, they are simply experimenting with societal norms. How does the other child behave or feel when I respond in this manner? How many of us, as adults, have felt the sting of stumbling when we’ve taken social/emotional risks? How much better for kids to have the chance to try out a few different tactics NOW, while they’re young and tend to be able to shake things off a little easier and when the consequences are likely to be less severe? Or if they really do encounter some sticky social situations, it can be reassuring to know that there’s a nearby caring adult who was observing the whole scenario and can talk it through with them later.

When we focus on modeling our own behavior for children, and also give children the space to take social risks, we find that the fifteen seconds or thirty seconds or even a minute or two that it takes them to successfully negotiate that instance of risk gives them the confidence and knowledge to handle similar situations when we are not there. Moreover, in these instances children learn about themselves, others and how their decisions and actions affect others. They learn their role in the social relationships that they are building and maintaining to further their own enjoyment of play and discovery. That fifteen seconds of anxiety for us as we struggle to not to intervene, verbally or physically, is their opportunity to learn and grow and our opportunity to discover their capacity.

(this horsey wasn't very supportive...)

Intellectual risk: trying out new ideas that just might fail… or might be brilliant? Definitely a risky move and one kids are perfectly suited to tackle. First of all, they have many fewer preconceived notions about the way the world is “supposed” to work and so they’re more likely to think of solutions that would never occur to an adult. 95% of those solutions might not achieve the desired result, but innovative ideas that surprise and astound us come from this process of hypothesis and trial and error. And the hundreds of solutions one child might experiment with to solve one problem will be referenced and repeated and reassessed by the child as she encounters that next sticky wicket. In this regard, kids are the ultimate makers and tinkerers because they’re so willing to try things that adults would never dream would work. They just need the space, time, materials and respect for their agency and ability.

box flap as slide? awesome idea.

Which of these types of risks do you feel ready to embrace with your children?  One? Two?  All three? I challenge you to stretch your comfort zone just a bit and see what amazing things might occur when you embrace the adventurous sense of risk.

(special thanks to Jesse Coffino for helping me to find just the right words to talk about this topic!)

Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit www.anjiplay.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise