Children need freedom for their healthy development. Freedom to independently explore the world, to test themselves on their own and take responsibility. Homework for us adults: to accompany children and adolescents in an enabling manner and make learning environments that foster development possible .
The term days outside (Tage draußen) was coined by Luis Töchterle, long-time head of the Youth Department of the Austrian Alpine Club. Days outside stands for many things that are important in life: movement, social relationships, the relationship with nature, for life in real-time, in the here and now. (Töchterle, L., 2009)
Risk is not danger
Risk is the connection between the unknown and the meaning that comes with an event that prompts you to grapple with it and its consequences. In contrast, danger means fear for life and limb. Children develop when they venture into life, when they engage in risk.
They need to be protected from danger. It’s not dangerous for children to balance on a one-meter-high beam - it’s risky. Play, no matter if outside in nature or in front of their own doorstep, isn’t dangerous. It bears risks and sometimes something can go wrong.
When nothing happens, nothing happens!
Studies in brain research, medicine and psychology show that self-determined and risky play is important for children’s’ healthy development. Children learn to regulate their emotions and to cope with stressful situations in risky play. Self-motivation, concentration and selective attention are influenced by the possibilities of being able to make self-determined experiences with open outcomes.
A glimpse into the future is also worthwhile according to researchers: Overly protecting children is connected to an increase in frequency of depression, anxiety disorders, and a low level of satisfaction in life of young adults. Or it can, as a social risk factor, influence unspecific medical symptoms among those adolescents. These connections should make us ponder in regards to human, societal, and economic view points.
No safety without risk-taking
Children and adolescents get to know their capabilities and boundaries through challenges, which can also go wrong. They learn that they can master difficult situations by themselves and they can experience the consequences of their actions. These experiences allow them to experience self-efficacy and are important for them to become independent.
They form strategies to cope with precarious and challenging situations in the future. We think of safety not as an utopian certainty of order but as inner safety. We are close to the Latin source of the word „securus“, meaning an „emotional quality of people and things and not the objective condition of being safe“ (Kaufmann 1973). It is clear for us: Inner safety develops in learning environments that are developmentally friendly and where risk plays an important role.
A trusting approach
A trusting approach towards children and adolescents opens possibilities for uncertain challenges. It makes room for letting them shape their world. It makes time for unstructured play and actions and allows for room for them to fail. It thrives on appreciation and makes responsibility possible.
Whoever makes responsibility possible makes freedom possible, makes it possible to face life with confidence.
Publications of the Youth Department of the Austrian Alpine Club (in German language)
DREI D Magazin - Denkraum für die Jugendarbeit (No. 4/2020): Tage draußen! - Themenschwerpunkt zum Filmprojekt der Alpenvereinsjugend
DREI D Magazin - Denkraum für die Jugendarbeit (No. 2/2020): Tage draußen! - Themenschwerpunkt zum Filmprojekt der Alpenvereinsjugend
DREI D Magazin - Denkraum für die Jugendarbeit (No. 3/2019): Verantwortung ermöglichen - Themenschwerpunkt der Alpenvereinsjugend
Statement des Alpenvereins für Eigenverantwortung bei Aktivitäten in freier Natur: Risikomanifest des Österreichischen Alpenverein
Einwanger, Jürgen (2013, in DREI D Magazin - Denkraum für die Jugendarbeit): Wie riskant ist Sicherheit? Über die Herausforderung Eigenverantwortung zuzulassen.
Einwanger, J. (2007, Ernst Reinhardt Verlag): Mut zum Risiko: Herausforderungen für die Arbeit mit Jugendlichen
Pramstaller, Matthias (2019, in bergauf Magazin): Verantwortung ermöglichen. Anstiftung zu mehr Mut und Zuversicht.
References (in German language)
Töchterle, L. (2009). Tage*draußen. Messgröße für Lebensqualität. In: bergauf Magazin, S. 28-31.
Kaufmann (1973). Sicherheit als soziologisches und sozialpolitisches Problem. Stuttgart: Enke, Seite 50.
Texte dieser Webseite sind entnommen aus:
Pramstaller, M. (2019). Verantwortung ermöglichen - Themenschwerpunkt der Alpenvereinsjugend.
In: DREI D Magazin - Denkraum für die Jugendarbeit (3/2019), S. 3-13.