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Vancouver researcher urges parents to let kids climb trees

News1130 with Mariana Brussoni 05 May 2018

Go ahead – let your child walk to school – on their own!

A Vancouver-based researcher is coaching parents about letting go of their own fears.

Mariana Brussoni is a researcher at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and has been doing injury-prevention research for 20 years.

She has helped launch OutsidePlay.ca – where parents can assess if their own fears are getting in the way of letting their kids do things that used to be common place – like climbing trees and walking to school alone.

Her current study has parents fill out a survey, to assess the extent to which they prevent their kids from doing certain activities. There is also a workshop and a follow-up survey, to see if parents can change their attitudes.

She says children pick up a lot of negative messages when parents say ‘No’ or ‘Get down from that tree.’

“The message the child gets from that is ‘I’m not capable,’ ‘This is too dangerous,’ ‘I need someone else to decide for me what I’m capable of,’ and ‘The world is a dangerous place,” she says.

“There is more and more recognition about how important it really is to let kids go out and play things they choose and want to play.”

Brussoni says research shows allowing kids to make decisions and take on risks during play fosters a sense of independence, well-being, and confidence.

She says she loves taking parents back to their own childhoods. Childhood memories, she says, almost always involve being outside unsupervised,  not in playgrounds but in fields and forests. Yet those parents would never regard their own parents as neglectful.

She feels we’re in an era of fear-based caregiving – even though injury rates among kids are at their lowest levels ever.

Statistics show the most prevalent cause of death by injury for kids in Canada are car accidents.