Country Kids: Taking Risks
I know that allowing children to take risks can be a scary thought.
Some people recoil in horror and run a mile when I explain that some element of risk for children is a good thing. In work, we spend a lot of time managing risk, and making sure that our activities are as safe as possible. It’s such a benefit to a child when they tentatively take a little risk, and the resulting confidence they gain from that experience is huge.
The element of outdoor risk, in our little family, is definitely increasing as my daughter is getting older, so I thought that an activity involving an introduction to fires would be a new and exciting experience for her.
While on holiday recently at Coombe Mill, we visited the beach at Polzeath.
It’s a beautiful beach with the most amazing panorama. There are wide open spaces for children to run and still be seen by parents. There are small cliffs and rock pools for exploring and, of course, little pools of sea water which are great for jumping in and splashing around.
We found an area that was sightly hidden and eroded into the rock face. It was really functional, as we were sheltered well out of the wind. I had brought a Kelly Kettle with me from work. The Kelly Kettle is a great way of introducing fires to children. You build the fire part on the bottom ‘bowl’. This keeps the fire small and contained.
Then, you put the main Kelly Kettle part on top of the fire. This becomes a kind of funnel. You put water into the outer “skin” or jacket and the flames send heat up through the middle of the Kettle. This heats up the water and, as the design acts like a chimney, one is able to keep putting little bits of wood directly into the fire bowl, to keep the fire going.
The interesting thing was that my daughter was, initially, very interested in learning about the fire. How it’s built, what was needed to keep it going and so-on but, rather than wanting to constantly “play” with the fire, she ending up being very aware and behaving very safely. She understood the dangers, kept her distance, didn’t put too much wood in the fire and, while waiting for the water to boil, became more interested in getting creative with bits of wood, string, cotton wool and the tub of vaseline we’d brought along to help initiate the fire!
We sat together, watching the smoke billowing lazily out from the top, and waiting for the water to boil so we could enjoy our hot chocolate on the beach.
So, when a it’s managed conscientiously, and explained simply and concisely, a little bit of risk has a great learning potential and confidence-building outcome for children. We had a lovely afternoon in a stunning environment, and our risky activity resulted in us both enjoying a delicious cup of steaming hot chocolate!