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SAFETY: Can Too Much Safety Hinder Your Child's Development?

“Let him do it,” your child’s therapist said for the hundredth time. How do you explain to her that the last time he tried carrying his plates to the kitchen, he ended up with shattered pieces on the ground, and the time before then, he ended up with a swollen head?

Instead of facing another tantrum because he can't figure out his new toy or dealing with more food messes or oily shirts from his attempts at self-feeding, you'd rather just do it for him, right? Direct him before he tries, give him more food before he asks, and feed him before he soils his clothes and gives you more tasks.

Every parent gets it – that instinct to scoop your child up the minute they try something new. We want to save them from the spills, the tumbles, the frustration. But hold on!  Those experiences are how our little ones become strong, learn new skills, and become independent.

Where should we draw the line between safety and allowing children to develop their autonomy? It's crucial to understand that while safety is important, being overly cautious can hinder your child's development.

The question is, where and when do you draw the line?

It is vital to find a balance between ensuring a secure environment for children and allowing them to explore and learn from their experiences. Children acquire knowledge and skills through hands-on experiences, taking risks, and trial-and-error. By giving them the freedom to explore their surroundings, try new activities, and make choices, they develop essential skills like communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and independence. However, an environment overly concerned with safety may hinder opportunities for learning, growth, and development.

So, how do you teach autonomy while ensuring a safe environment?

  • It's about creating an environment where our children can explore safely. No sharp things within reach! But let's allow them those slightly messy, potentially frustrating experiences. It builds important skills. YES! SAFETY FIRST, ADVENTURE SECOND.

  • Encourage independence, exploration, and autonomy by providing age-appropriate opportunities for them to take risks, make decisions, and learn from their experiences while giving appropriate rewards when necessary. This can help promote healthy development and foster a sense of confidence and self-reliance in young children.

  • Remember, mistakes are just stepping stones to success! Allow your child to try new activities and explore their interests, even if it means a few spills and tumbles along the way. Every stumble is a chance for growth and learning.

  • When your child takes a risk and succeeds, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate their achievement. Whether it's learning to ride a bike or trying new food, positive reinforcement encourages them to continue exploring and pushing their boundaries.

  • Establish clear and consistent boundaries that help children understand what is safe and acceptable behavior. Set rules and expectations that are age-appropriate and easy to understand, and reinforce them consistently. This provides children with a sense of security and structure, allowing them to explore their autonomy within a safe and predictable framework.

  • Create supervised environments where children can explore and experiment freely under the watchful eye of a caregiver. Set up play areas like toys, puzzles, etc. that are designed to encourage exploration and discovery, with safety features in place to prevent accidents. This allows children to satisfy their natural curiosity while minimizing the risk of harm.


Learning how to balance safety and autonomy is crucial for parents. It's important to keep your child safe, but also to encourage their growth into confident and self-reliant individuals. When your child wants to try something new, like climbing a tree or cooking breakfast, take a deep breath, prioritize safety, and let them explore (with proper precautions, of course). This will help them gain independence and build their confidence.


  • Shonkoff, Jack P., and Phillips, Deborah A. “From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development.” National Academies Press, Print.

  • Vygotsky, Lev S. “Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes.” Harvard University Press, Print.

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