50 Dangerous Things for Kids

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gever Tulley, a self-taught computer scientist, founder of the Tinkering School, and author of 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do), talks about his activity book, and how exposing children to risk and danger can actually teach them about safety.

What's the most dangerous thing you let your kids do? What's the most dangerous thing you did as a kid? Let us know!


Gever Tulley
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Comments [15]

Jeff C from Manhattan

(Sorry, in advance for the length of my message.)

I am a scout leader here in NYC and I was pleased to happen upon the second half of the interview.

It is core to our program that our boys learn to safely and appropriately use outdoor cutting tools, i.e., knife, saw, hatchet, and ax. I think I could safely say that when a new boy joins a troop, his eyes bug out when he sees our cutting tools. He can't wait to get his hands on them. But, he can't use them until he successfully passes through our training program. We take this very seriously. Briefly, training covers the appropriate uses of each tool, how to handle them and use them correctly and safely, when and where to use them and how to maintain and store the tools. It takes a few hours often spread out over two sessions and when it is completed our scout gets a 'trained' card he must carry at all times if he wants to use the tools. With training, he is ready to use the tools, maybe not well, but safely. Proficiency takes time. Should a boy be seen using a sloppy disregard for safety, it is a serious matter. There is a discussion and a corner of his 'card' is clipped. Four clipped corners and he loses the right to use the tools. He must be retrained. In ten + years I have rarely seen a card with two or more clipped corners; boys don't want to lose the privilege.

Having said all that, we use the tools a lot when we are camping: setting up our campsite, chopping wood for our kitchen fires and our evening campfire, kitchen prep and cooking, creating pioneer tools or structures, or for whiling away the quiet hours by stripping bark for a new hiking stick and carving their name in it. Over time the boys learn to see the tools as just that - 'tools' not toys. And by the way, the boys learn to make a campfire, safely.

As you will notice, I am a resident of Manhattan, my son's boy scout troop is in Chinatown. Now, what would be the chances that my Manhattan-centric son, would learn varied outdoor living skills - living here in Manhattan? Without the Boy Scouts, I would say, slim to none. Thank you, BSA.

May. 25 2011 01:01 PM
John A.

A word for the demise of classic plastic model cement. It would be dangerous in the wrong hands, but for plastic modellers dedicated to their elaborate construction projects, it was amazingly better that what was sold as the "safe" replacement.

May. 25 2011 11:47 AM
Tamar from Brooklyn

God I can't stand people who don't have kids pontificating on what parents should do. Not to mentiont hat ultimately, his "dangerous" list is sensationalist - he decries what he considers fussy parents who won't let children have "experiences" but then it turns out that what he means is that we should let our kids have these experiences under very safe and controlled circumstances. He says "Let Your Child Put Her Hand Out the Window of the Car" - but what he means is a once in awhile experiment with air, on a deserted road, etc. - in other words, not on a highway with trucks whizzing by. This only shows he never had a 3 yo in the car who can't quite differentiate between the one time this is okay, and the thousand times it isn't.

May. 25 2011 11:45 AM
Eliza from Brooklyn

When i was 4-years old, I stuck my fingers in snap-back type mouse trap, because "i wanted to see how it felt"... Ouch! I wouldn't suggest that, it hurt ALOT, it just looked so irresistable, i don't know why i did it.

May. 25 2011 11:45 AM

When I was a kid, I had a GREAT chemistry set and it had some substances that I know would be considered "dangerous" by the risk averse parents of today.

There were also some chemicals that specifically said DO NOT MIX with.... I mixed them anyhow. Yes, I survived to become a science teacher.

The species will survive, folks, but will THRIVE only by taking risks.

May. 25 2011 11:44 AM
RLewis from da bowery

Interesting how all of the callers for this segment were men. Has that every happened on this station? Telling.

May. 25 2011 11:44 AM
Patricia from FH

I remember licking a 9 volt battery. I'm the youngest and only girl with three older brothers. They dared me and I did it. It was great! They also licked the battery. We all stuck our hands out the window. All of these things were wonderful and fun.

My husband cooks with our 9 year old. For my son's birthday we gave him a cutting glove and are teaching him how to use knives.

May. 25 2011 11:44 AM
IC from NY, Montreal

Regardless of what kids are allowed to do, I believe as parents we should first teach them to recognize there's both discovery and consequences to everything we do, and to think before doing dangerous things but not to hold back on discovering life and all that's around us. Americans have become far too overprotective to not let kids grow up as they should.

May. 25 2011 11:43 AM

Doris Lessing's story "Through the Tunnel" is a must for anyone sympathetic to this idea.

May. 25 2011 11:40 AM

When I was young my father showed us a game called "mummbly peg," where you would take a jack-knife, lay it on your palm, throw it up and over your head and try to stick it in the ground as close as you could to your heels.

May. 25 2011 11:40 AM
Dennis from Manhattan

The book implies that everything has to be controlled in a kid's life. While the whole essence of a childhood is exploring, being bored and getting in trouble to learn and remember the lessons of life.

May. 25 2011 11:40 AM

Learn to use knives at home. It's crazy to spend thousands of dollars a year for a private school to teach your kid to learn that. Also bake bread at home.

May. 25 2011 11:39 AM
Sadie from Manhattan

Playing with fire seems gender neutral to me (breaking glass sounds fun, too).

May. 25 2011 11:38 AM
Steve from Bridgewater NJ

How about letting a kid touch some raw meat... or even eat it!?!? This weekend I took my four year old daughter to a meatball cooking class, and the paranoid reactions of some of the parents to ground beef was puzzling to us both!

May. 25 2011 11:38 AM
Liza from Brooklyn

Two words: Dragon Coaster

May. 25 2011 10:40 AM

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