In a world of almost constant supervision, protected playgrounds, and “be carefuls,” many children are developing what psychologists call “risk aversion.” Risk aversion is the avoidance of actions or opportunities that have the chance to create negative consequences.
While moderate risk aversion is healthy, if a child becomes too risk-averse they may be afraid to try new activities, make new friends, or tackle a challenging school subject or project. Children with normal risk aversion continually build self-confidence, gain courage, take social risks and chances, and are constantly exploring. See below for five ways to reduce the development of high risk aversion in early learners!
1. A call to physical activity
Unable to take your early learner outside today to run and play? Ask your early learner to see how many wall push-ups they can do. Ask your early learner to walk like a crab by sitting on the ground, lifting up his or her body using both hands and feet, and walk around the living room. Any activity that explores the strength capabilities of the body allows your early learner to grow more confident in physical activities or challenges.
2. Read or tell stories from pictures aloud in front of family, friends, peers, and even pets!
Currently, in grade school, “round robin” or “popcorn reading” is going by the wayside (Finley, 2014). This is due to a combination of factors including reducing embarrassment and unwanted attention for students, but has the byproduct of preventing borderline students from displaying courage in volunteering to read aloud. Make sure your child is willing to take risks and become a classroom reading volunteer through having them read aloud or tell stories from picture books. This activity also serves to increase reading comprehension, fluency, and creativity!
3. Challenge to avoid TV and create own games
Help your early learner gain confidence and take control of their own entertainment by reducing television or video viewing by 50% for one week. When certain practices like TV viewing become a habit, children (and adults!) can become afraid to try new things—in other words, to take risks. Challenge your early learning to create a new game, make up a new story, or create a new invention.
4. Try a new or unusual experience without instruction
Have you ever looked in wonderment as an early learner tried something new to them that is very mechanical to you? A good example might be the first time an early learner chooses his or her own outfit and dresses themselves. While clashing garments may not be ideal, presenting early learners with other ways to express their creativity can serve to stave off risk aversion. Invite your early learner into the kitchen with you and challenge them to make a liquid disappear (ex. stirring milk into flour). You could also give your early learner non-traditional materials to paint with like leaves and feathers as paint brushes—or even paint with ketchup and mustard!
5. Embracing collaborative exercise
Help your early learner to develop necessary social and teamwork skills by enrolling them in gymnastics, swimming, soccer, or other sports. Exercising and learning new skills, while also learning how to negotiate social situations with peers and leaders, helps to develop self-confidence in early learners.