Why to let your kids do dangerous stuff

Cat climbing a tree: not dangerous

This is my take on an article by The Art of Manliness on “dangerous” activities you should let your kids do. But I’m not a parent, so what do I know.

The Art of Manliness published a new post recently with the title “23 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do”. I don’t have kids, but who could resist that title?

If you ignore the blatant misconception that parents “let” their children do things–in fact, kids do things and sometimes their parents find out afterwards–the article makes some excellent points.

Stopping kids doing anything that could vaguely be considered dangerous is likely to result in fragile adults who lack the confidence to deal with life’s challenges.

Let’s consider the activities The Art of Manliness thinks children should be allowed to do.

Children should be allowed to play with fireworks

I wasn’t allowed to play with fireworks as a kid. I also didn’t want to play with them because they were kind of terrifying. (Except sparklers. Sparklers are pretty.)

You light fireworks and they sit there pretending everything is fine. It’s not fine. The quiet is an illusion.

Just when you’re starting to think they’re duds, BANG.

Did I mention loud noises scare me?

Maybe if I’d been allowed to play with fireworks as a kid I wouldn’t find them so scary now.

Verdict on fireworks: Agree.

Children should be allowed to stick their arms out the car window

Dogs do it all the time, and they do it with their heads.

Dog sticking it's head out a car window

Look how happy it makes them. Why would you deny this joy to your children?

As The Art of Manliness points out, if you’re driving close enough to objects that there’s a risk of collision, you should probably leave more space.

There is a risk of birdstrike, but it seems very small.

Verdict on car windows: Agree.

Children should be allowed to use a bow and arrow

I don’t see how you can argue this point. Archery makes anyone’s life better.

Just have them watch or read Robin Hood or The Hunger Games first to get in the right mindset. They might use archery to right a wrong or save the world one day.

Verdict on archery: Agree

Children should be allowed to cook a meal

The serious downside here is that you’re required to eat whatever they cook without complaining. Even if it’s terrible.

The upside is that they’ll complain less about your cooking. Probably.

Given enough chances and hopefully not too many third degree burns, children will learn to cook an edible meal.

This skill will stand them in good stead as adults. Otherwise from the time they leave home they will have to subsist on instant noodles and frozen pizza. Believe me, the thrill quickly wears off.

Verdict on cooking: Agree

Children should be allowed to climb trees

Like, duh. What’s the point of being a kid if you can’t climb trees?

Verdict on trees: Agree

Children should be allowed to drive a car

(Note not alone and not on a public road)

The Art of Manliness suggests you work the pedals with the child on your lap steering. You’re then in a good position to take hold of the steering wheel if need be.

Kids need to be able to drive. Where would Danny the Champion of the World have been if he hadn’t been able to drive? In big trouble. Do you want to risk your children finding themselves in the same situation and not being able to drive?

We make a big deal about driving, but steering is simple. It’s avoiding the morons on the road that’s the hard part.

Verdict on driving: Agree

Children should be allowed to burn things with a magnifying glass

Not ants, themselves, or each other, but things that don’t mind being burned.

Making fire from sunlight and glass is sort of like magic, and it’s a useful survival skill. If you ever get lost in the bush on the way home from work you’ll want to know how to make fire with a magnifying glass.

Of course, knowing won’t help because it will be raining and you won’t have a magnifying glass.

Verdict on magnifying glasses: Agree

Children should be allowed to stand on the roof

Playing on the roof was one of the great joys of my childhood. Unless your child is the type who incessantly falls over his own feet and can’t go two minutes without being pushed over by his friend, what’s going to happen?

The roof is also an excellent place for: spying on your neighbours; pretending to read a book in a language you don’t understand; and working on your tan.

Not that I’m speaking from experience. I never lay on the roof trying to get a tan.

Verdict on roofs: Agree

Children should be allowed to sword fight with sticks

Try to stop children sword fighting with sticks and you’ll see how redundant this point is.

Sword fighting is a skill best begun early. If your children are ever attacked by sword-wielding bandits, you’ll be glad you let them practice on each other, even though their noses will never be entirely straight again.

Here come the cavalry

Verdict on sword fighting: Agree


There you have it. Lots of things for your children to do that will keep you awake at night and (possibly) turn them into more capable human beings. Check out the Art of Manliness article for the full list.

Do you think parents today are too protective of their children? What do or would you let your kids do?

Get all my updates. My monthly list also gets inside stories that I don’t make public. Yay for secrets!

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

18 thoughts on “Why to let your kids do dangerous stuff”

  1. I did all of these things and somehow survived. They made for great memories. We even got the dog up on the roof through an open window. She’s sit there and wait for us to come home from school. 🙂

  2. You know, I have a theory about why Jackass is so popular (or was) on t.v. and why you see all these dumb 20-somethings on Tru TV’s “world’s dumbest” all the time (other than the “hey, look at me” viral-video crap). My theory is these things keep happening because nobody let little Timmy figure out that he can’t fly off the top of the jungle gym like a bird when he was FIVE.

    A kid plays dangerously, figures out “hey, that hurts” when they fall, pick themselves up (and go to mom if the arm’s broken/sprained and get a sling/cast for it), and then never do it again (or if it’s something like a sport or bike riding, get guidance from somebody who knows how). We were allowed to figure things out and fail as kids, and sometimes we got hurt. But the good thing about getting hurt as a kid is we were still growing, and so were our bones, so they’d heal up better than an adult’s would.

    And regular play, like swords and bows and arrows and whatnot…yeah, sad to see that going by the wayside. I like my video games once in a while, but I can’t do more than 30 minutes at a time because I get bored and can finally think of something else to do. Kids with nothing else to do (or no imagination to consider it) are the ones that’re gonna be in front of the t.v. or computer for hours on end. Let ’em play, dammit–it’s the responsible thing!

    1. That’s a great theory. More children should be allowed to jump off the roof onto the trampoline when they’re young and bouncy, then they wouldn’t find it so exciting later on. 🙂 We must be responsible adults and let our kids get hurt! (just a little bit)

  3. The fact that this list even has to exist makes me sad for the kids whose parents are trying to enforce such soul-dampening rules. Except, maybe, for the first one, and only because parents who require this list to straighten out their policies are also likely to be absolutist enough that, should they take these admonitions to heart, will do so without the obvious and unstated need for adult supervision in the use of pyrotechnics. Also, I burned the $&!T out of my finger with a sparkler when I was six. However, I survived, learned something about the power of combusting magnesium, and went on to raise two boys to adulthood. During which time I suggested to our local emergency room, more than once, that I should have my own coffee cup in their waiting room.

    1. It’s very sad. It’s a pity adulthood, parenthood in particular, doesn’t come with a good dollop of common sense. Your boys were lucky to have a mum who let them test their limits themselves. 🙂

  4. I feel the same way about fireworks. I’m terrified of them but was never allowed to play with them as a child.
    In a general sense, I agree. Experiences are good for children to have and overprotectiveness can be a bit ridiculous at times. One time we were at a playground and a mom was scolding her children for yelling. Not screaming, throwing tantrums, or being unnecessarily crazy. The kids were merely shouting as they ran and played. OUTDOORS. And their family and ours were the only ones there. So it’s not like the shouts were bothering anyone. Very strange.

    1. Yay, so I’m not weird for being scared of fireworks. 🙂

      That is strange. Kids are supposed to yell when they play outside. 🙂 The mother probably spent her entire childhood being told not to be so loud.

  5. I remember roaming the neighborhood without adult supervision, hopping fences to get to the next street over instead of walking all the way around the block. The worst that ever happened was a few scrapes, but that was because I didn’t know how to steer a go-kart (non-motorized) that was being pulled by a bicycle. I was never taught how to steer a car by age 6. Coincidence? Also, my mom gave me specific instructions not to open the front door, so I ended up on that street without a way in because I climbed out through the window. Hey, it wasn’t the front door.

    *files above story for a future blog post*

    Also, the point about learning to cook a meal can’t be repeated enough.

    1. Haha, I did the climbing over back fences too. It was much more exciting. That’s a great story about the front door – it sounds like you were a pretty obedient child. 😉

  6. I concur. As a kid we played games of hide-and-seek that took over two entire blocks, hopping in and out of neighbours yards and around corners (man, those were epic games). We played on super epic (and super sturdy) wooden jungle gym sets that made for amazing castles and have since been replaced by ostensibly safer plastic eyesores wtf. We jumped from heights. We climbed trees. I learned what gave me bumps and bruises and scrapes, I jumped (or fell) from the top of the jungle gyms and picked myself up and did it again. I’m not saying be stupid, but for the love of sanity stop swaddling kids in cotton and expecting them to come out fine. Life isn’t like that in general so let them play and BE KIDS and they’ll learn how to pick themselves up when they fall. And along the way they’ll learn that trees are forts and your mundane neighbourhood can actually be the site of some pretty amazing hide and seek games 🙂

    1. Your hide and seek games sound amazing! 🙂

      I loved those wooden jungle gyms! We had a three-storey wooden fort at my primary school, and it was a thing for the kids to jump off the second storey. There was also a round tunnel to crawl through that joined two parts of the fort on the second level. On top was a beam that was about four inches wide. Another challenge was to cross on top of this tunnel on roller skates. I have no idea who ever thought that was a good idea, but I’m pretty sure it was none of the teachers.

  7. I wasn’t allowed to play with fireworks as a kid, but my friend Marty was, so we’d go out and blow up a few firecrackers–whatever we could buy on our allowances. It didn’t really help the fear of loud noises, and since then, I’ve developed a few ethical qualms about fireworks in general.
    I think I did most of these things, although the driving thing was more an assortment of ride-on lawn mowers (so much for child labor laws) and some dirt bikes/ATVs

    1. I grew up in an area where it got really dry in summer, so fireworks were a pretty big fire hazard. I know some kids also used them to mistreat animals, which makes me angry. None of that means children can’t be taught to use fireworks safely and sensibly, though. Haha, I rode ride-on lawnmowers too. Ours was called Tony. 🙂

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