5 Dangerous Projects You Should (Probably) Let Your Children Do

Do your kids test their limits… and scare you to death?

Is it difficult to let go and let them learn things, the hard way?

Merriam-Webster defines adventure as “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.”

In this article, I’ll share five adventures that encourage parents like you and me to say “yes” and let our children learn by taking risks.

I gleaned them from Gever Tulley’s book, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

Learn how to prepare your kids for the real world by teaching them the difference between true danger and mere risk.

Why Let Kids Do Dangerous Projects?

At what age would you feel comfortable letting your child use a sharp knife?

Before you answer that question, consider the risks of using a sharp knife; for example, small cuts and scratches or even deep wounds. Then start from age 2 and keep going up until you’re sure you could hand your child a sharp knife without having to say, “Be careful!”

If the thought of exposing your children to the slightest dangerous situation makes you shudder, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Most parents wouldn’t dream of putting their children in harm’s way, at least not on purpose!

Unfortunately we live in a dangerous world.

As a parent, you must teach your children to navigate their way around dangerous situations to avoid a potential tragedy in the future.

You know the saying, “Experience is the best teacher.” Just as reading, writing and math are the gateways to competence, so too are experience and experimentation.

child climbing in cupboard

We live in a dangerous world. Image source: iStockPhoto.

A child who enjoys squashing pennies on a railroad track may be taking numerous risks, but she will have a deeper, more complete understanding of the physics involved than one who merely reads or watches a video about it.

penny on railroad track

Children can learn the physics of force by squashing pennies on a railroad track. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Other dangerous examples are swimming pools and beaches. Children (especially toddlers) are drawn to water like moths to a flame. A wise parent teaches the child how to swim early in life, rather than avoiding water and exposing him or her to the greater danger of drowning when not within arm’s reach.

If you’re so afraid (of your kids getting hurt) that you don’t let them try anything risky, you’re doing them a disservice by not preparing them for the real world.

Let them “tinker with danger” and what you’re really teaching them is safety.

50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) illustrates this very well.

book cover

All activities in the book are fun and adventurous, but they also contain an element of risk.

As a parent, you should look at these activities as an opportunity to discuss risk with your child and mitigate danger by planning, practicing and taking reasonable precautions.

5 Dangerous Projects Kids Should Do

Before letting your child try something risky, decide whether he or she is old enough, or whether you should wait a little.

Also remember that you have the power of supervision. Decide whether your child can try these activities on his or her own or whether you need to be there. In any case, resist the urge to tell the child how to do it (unless danger looms).

author gever tulley

Gever Tulley, author of 50 Dangerous Things, encourages parents to prepare their kids for the world by exposing them to situations they (or you) may find risky or scary.

It’s OK to let kids fail so they can figure out how to work around it.

Here are 5 dangerous projects you should let your kids do (pick up the book for detailed instructions on each activity):

#1: Play With Fire

Fire and burns are the most common cause of unintentional death among children of all ages. In 2009, almost 119,000 children in the U.S. were injured severely enough that they had to go to the emergency department.

The goal of this activity is to learn how to control the most fearsome force of nature. Kids get to understand the dangerous aspects of fire, such as it can cause life-threatening burns and property damage and can get out of control. Fire can also produce smoke and gases that are dangerous for people and the environment.

child playing with fire

Teach your kids how to handle fire safely. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Knowing these risks helps kids learn how to handle fire safely—for instance, make a fire only in well-ventilated areas (like a fire pit), always keep buckets of water or a hose handy for dousing the fire and watch over it until it is put out and completely cold.

#2: Drop From High Places

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal child injuries according to the CDC? Most fall-related injuries occur at home and they’re not always from great heights. Children fall from many locations including windows, structures, playground equipment and even bunk beds.

Learning how to fall properly helps kids minimize injury when hitting the ground. For example, bending the knees makes legs act like shock-absorbers and keeps the landing force from being transmitted to the spine.

children jumping

Teaching kids how to drop safely can minimize injuries. Image source: iStockPhoto.

The best way to learn how to fall is practice on a park bench. Make sure your child has strong, sturdy shoes such as boots. Unless you have a giant pile of sawdust, straw or snow, don’t let your kids attempt this from a height of more than 18 inches.

#3: Cross Town on Public Transport

It’s extremely important for kids to know how to find their way home should the need ever arise. Public transportation is ten times safer than hitching a ride with a stranger! The goal of this activity is to teach kids how to navigate the world independently and safely.


Public transportation is safer than hitching a ride from a stranger. Image source: iStockPhoto.

By riding the bus or train, kids learn how to read transit maps, observe posted safety warnings and be careful among crowds. If they get lost or confused, teach them that bus drivers and ticket booth operators are more reliable than other passengers or strangers in the street.

Remember, if your kids can find their way around on public transportation, they can probably find their way home.

#4: Sleep in the Wild

It’s important for children to challenge their fears and sharpen their survival skills. Sleeping in the wild helps them overcome fear of the dark, as well as sharpen those fight-or-flight instincts.

child in tent

Kids should learn how to face their fears and sharpen their survival skills. Image source: iStockPhoto.

The idea is to pick a secluded location—one that is not illuminated by streetlights. Your kids will become more aware of their surroundings, learn to keep safe from predators and stay warm on cold nights.

If your kids are timid about this adventure, ease into it by camping indoors, then moving to the backyard and finally to a more remote location.

When sleeping in a new place, especially one that is not protected by walls, their hearing becomes more acute as they strain to hear every little noise. Sorting through those noises can help them figure out whether an imminent threat is looming.

#5: Deconstruct an Appliance

These days we seem to have so many junk appliances and devices lying around (old iPhones, computers, etc.), kids can’t help but pick them up and play around with them.

Well, why not let your kids take them apart and try to figure out how they work? Letting your kids dismantle real-life machines can help fuel intellectual curiosity and creativity. They get to see what this wire does or what that panel does, and thus connect the dots between the outside of the device and the inside of it.

child playing with electronic

A young girl fuels her intellectual curiosity with a deconstructed motherboard. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Of course there are certain appliances that contain toxic chemicals and should never be taken apart without expert guidance, such as old-style TVs, computers and refrigerators. The goal is to get your kids to think about how tools work and maybe even develop an interest in technology.

Some Final Thoughts

My own kids were fascinated with this book and spent the weeks before Christmas licking 9-volt batteries, making a bomb-in-a-bag and dropping from high places.

kids talking

My kids at breakfast, discussing what dangerous activity they should tackle next.

You’ll find that some activities in this book are truly dangerous (e.g., playing with fire or standing on the roof) and others only somewhat risky (e.g., climbing a tree or super-gluing their fingers together). This book is an excellent resource to prepare your kids for the real world by teaching them the difference between true danger and mere risk.

Remember, if your children don’t learn how to handle themselves in these kinds of situations, it may turn out to be more dangerous for them in the end.

My Kids Adventures gives this book a four star rating (out of 5).

What do you think? What are your thoughts about letting go and letting kids learn from risky experiences? Have your kids ever conquered a fear? Please share your stories or photos of dangerous adventures below.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Patricia Redsicker

Patricia Redsicker writes research reviews for Social Media Examiner. She helps business owners craft content that sells. Her blog provides healthcare industry content marketing advice. Other posts by »

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Love these ideas. The more we encourage our kids to learn and engage with the world around us – the better prepared they are as they grow up! Sounds like a good book.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Patricia! I think the author is making a good point about preparing our kids to face things that life will throw at them.
    The second point reminds me of learning to ski. The first thing they taught us was how to fall properly. It was disappointing (and cold!) and hard to understand at the time, but valuable in the long run.

  • Amanda Shaw

    I hope it says something *good* about my parenting that my kids have done these things! LOL Thanks for the article—I’ll definitely check out the book. So many life lessons learned through this kind of play. Another good book along similar lines is The Art of Roughousing.

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much for reading Crystal. It is a wonderful book :)

  • predsicker

    Great real-life application Jen! I bet you’ve since taught your kids how to ‘fall properly’ 😉

  • predsicker

    Hi Amanda, Thanks for reading, and for your feedback too!

  • Cbus

    I don’t even ride public transit. There’s no way I’m letting my kid do it. Have you seen the people that ride the bus?

  • Janis H.

    Thank you for this. I absolutely needed to read it. I’ve been so frustrated lately that my childhood seemed so much more independent and not home-bound than my children’s, and now I think I understand why. I watched many a penny get flattened on the railroad tracks as a kid. My kids don’t even know that’s possible.

  • Dawn L

    I love the suggestion of deconstructing items. I give my son all kinds of old things to take apart (things that are heading for the garbage) – old calculators, a vacuum, leaf blower, electric razor. It’s one of the few things that will occupy him for a while!

  • faigie

    http://chicquero.com/2012/09/24/worlds-best-father/. Take a look at this if you really want Dads to do dangerous things with their kids

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