A Lecture on Importance of Kids' Risk-Taking and Adventure Helps Mark 100th Anniversary of Child Study Center

May 7, 2014
4 year-old girl in purple dress walks a balance beam at Child Study Center playground

At Wellesley, women learn to be strategic thinkers who can “read” environments and navigate their challenges. How much of that disciplined thinking may be fostered through a lack of discipline—the freedom to assess and embrace risk and, even, the possibility of failure?

Educators and parents have begun to examine that question more closely as it relates to child development. According to Joan Almon, cofounder of the Alliance for Childhood, “After years of giving children as little risk as possible, the American public is exploring a new possibility: Give children as much risk as they can handle.”

The Wellesley College Child Study Center, as part of its 100th anniversary celebration, brings Almon to campus on May 8 for a lecture and Q&A that will explore why encouraging children to engage in risk-taking can help prepare them for life’s challenges. The event, in Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall at 7 p.m.,  is free and open to the public.

As expressed in The Overprotected Kid, an article published recently in The Atlantic, risk-taking is instinctual, since learning to negotiate risk has been key to survival throughout human history: “Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. By engaging in risky play, children are effectively subjecting themselves to a form of exposure therapy, in which they force themselves to do the thing they’re afraid of in order to overcome their fear.”

The article profiles The Land, one of the new “adventure playgrounds” that encourage unstructured play. Such play areas often resemble junk yards more than traditional playgrounds, and allow children to explore their environment on their own terms. While not entirely unregulated, the areas are monitored by “play workers,” who rarely intervene in the children’s activities.

Almon will describe her observations of The Land and the other adventure playgrounds she has had an opportunity to observe in the United States and United Kingdom. She will also speak from her own 18+ years of experience working with children as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, and will discuss her work with the Alliance for Children, a research organization with a major focus on restoring play in children’s lives, in and out of school. Almon is also the author of Adventure: The Value of Risk in Children’s Play.

Guests who are unable to join us at Alumnae Hall are invited to view the talk streaming live at 7 p.m.

About The Child Study Center

Founded a century ago, the Child Study Center is one of the country’s leading laboratory nursery schools. Affiliated with Wellesley College’s Department of Psychology, the Child Study Center offers a model preschool program, supports innovative research, and trains teachers, clinicians, and other professionals.