Encouraging Kids To Do Dangerous Things

NPR's Guy Raz of the TED Radio Hour talks with Tinkering School founder Gever Tulley, who says that when kids are encouraged to do dangerous things, they become better problem solvers.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A lot of parents these days can be protective of their children - maybe, even overprotective. They weren't always.

GEVER TULLEY: My parents, they would let us out the back door and we would wander around into the forest. And as long as we were home by lunch or supper, everything was OK.

SIMON: This is Gever Tulley. He encourages children to do dangerous things. And he recently spoke with the host of the TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz.

GUY RAZ, BYLINE: As Gever tells it, it was a pivotal moment.

TULLEY: Where I was sitting around a table with some friends from the office at a corporate Christmas party, we had all just been talking about the kinds of adventures we had as children tromping around in the woods by ourselves, getting poison oak and bruising our shins. And then I asked them, how are you making sure that your kids have these kinds of experiences? And the immediate and clear response for most of the table was, oh, well, we barely survived childhood. That's hardly appropriate for children today.

RAZ: So Gever, half joking, just said maybe he should create a summer camp, you know, borrow his friends kid and give them the childhood they ought to have.

TULLEY: And by the end of the night, I had five or six kids signed up for a summer camp that didn't actually exist other than in my mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF POWER TOOLS)

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: OK, start.

RAZ: Today, that camp does exists.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I have an idea. I have the perfect idea.

RAZ: It's just outside San Francisco. It's called Tinkering School, where kids play with saws, pocket knives and power tools.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: And any nails.

RAZ: Yeah, like what's your release form like? It's got to be like 25 pages.

TULLEY: To this day, we've never needed much more than a Band-Aid. But the truth is, in an environment where the children realize, like, this is the opposite of being overprotected, we suddenly see the children take much more responsibility for themselves.

RAZ: What would happen, like, if you didn't let your kids do those things? - like you produce a boring and dull child?

TULLEY: A boring and dull child who is a consumer rather than a creator in their lives because injuries are going to happen. Let's not let that fear prevent us from letting children have real and meaningful self-directed experiences. So the fact that one child at a school has a pocket knife and another child isn't ready, we immediately denigrate that positive benefit which is so hard to measure which is I've empowered my child's and he feels like I trust him with this a sharp tool. That's a bond between parent and child it's hard to build without actually giving them responsibility for something that has a little bit of danger.

SIMON: Gever Tulley - more ideas about growing up this weekend on the TED Radio Hour. This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.