How to raise adventurous children


Laidlaw Education founder Sue Laidlaw offers her advice on how to raise adventurous children, and ideas on adventure activities which children and teenagers will love…

My earliest memory is very clear. Standing in my cot, I noticed a very small, but significant, piece of wallpaper, coming unstuck from the wall, within very easy reach of my small hand! Curiosity clearly got the better of me and, before long, I discovered that a very long piece of torn wallpaper hung loosely off the wall!

All of us are born curious - and many are born with an innate sense of adventure. The challenge for parents and good teachers is to harness and foster that adventurous spirit and curious mind, and channel it in positive directions! If this can be addressed wisely, children can grow in confidence and have a good chance of moving confidently into adolescence and adulthood, with a developing sense of balance and responsibility. Confident, responsible children grow in to teenagers who can embrace life with all its realities - and also have the ability to say ‘no’ when it is required.

We all now live in a society where children are highly protected, Health and Safety regulations are rife and common sense is sometimes ignored! So, as parents, how can we help to develop an adventurous, exciting and robust approach to childhood whilst ensuring that our children remain within sensible boundaries of safety?

We need to offer opportunities to extend the boundaries of their experience so far

We need to help them to measure risk themselves and step, little by little, outside their usual parameters. We need to offer opportunities to extend the boundaries of their experience so far and give them confidence to deal with the unexpected. Depending on each child: their age, their character and personality - small stages of independence can be offered - but remember, once you have given that next step of freedom, it will be difficult to take it back - judge wisely when to do it...

In practical terms, here are some examples:

  • Take children and teenagers camping - even somewhere very basic with very few amenities.

  • Build a camp fire and use it to toast marshmallows on a stick

  • Visit a windswept deserted beach - in the middle of winter - wrapped up warm

  • Climb trees

  • Make camps - outdoors or even indoors

  • Take a bus ride with a friend

  • Go to the supermarket on their own with a list of items to buy

It is often harder for parents to let go than it is for children to accept it. The key is common sense and an understanding of your child - measure the risk.

And how do schools embrace the joy of adventure for their pupils? Inevitably, schools need to be governed and restricted by rigorous safety policy. Decades ago, when I was starting out as a young teacher, we were able to take children out and about far more readily - and that we certainly write poems whilst clustered in small groups along a canal on a hot July day; to stay on an island (admittedly along the River Thames) where the only means to and fro from the mainland was via a small rowing boat; to stay in houses along the fjords of Norway....They were only eight or nine years old at the time. Those days have now gone but many schools provide wonderful opportunities for children to take their next steps of adventure and exploration of the world around them.

‘Creating an adventurous spirit in our children is more than just exploring the great outdoors’

Organised activities such as Scouts; canoeing and sailing courses and, in teenage years, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme are all great ways for children to be involved in adventurous activities.

And it is important to remember that creating an adventurous spirit in our children is more than just exploring the great outdoors. Children can be encouraged to cook, use kitchen utensils and appliances, and try new foods. They can help with DIY and decorating. Younger children will create their own exciting adventures by simply providing them with a very large cardboard box or two or putting a large table cloth over a table and letting them have a picnic underneath.

Let’s embrace the natural joy and adventure that they are born with and, by gradually helping them to think and play beyond the boundaries, step by step, at their own pace, they will learn how to embrace and take on their own world.

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Sue Laidlaw