30 apple Fall 2013
Learning to ride a bicycle is about more than staying
upright and pedalling forward. It’s also about having fun
and overcoming risks: failing, falling, scraping a knee and
The lessons gained while learning to ride a bike are worth
remembering when it comes to other children’s activities and
safety, says Dwayne Sheehan.
An associate professor in the Faculty of Health and
Community Studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University,
Sheehan says kids need a little risk in their lives.
“We can go too far in over-protecting children and create
what has been described as a lulling effect. We lull kids into
this feeling of safety. We’ve eliminated all of the risk, and
therefore they don’t have an appreciation of what risk is,”
he says. “I think it is important to make play spaces and
communities as safe as necessary, but not as safe as possible,
because that’s when people get carried away.”
Of course, risk needs to be balanced with safe equipment,
a safe environment and safe supervision that are right for
children’s ages. For example, children can physically learn
to ride a bike at a young age, but can’t fully understand the
risks of traffic until they’re between the ages of 10 and 14.
Michelle Hodder is a health promotion facilitator with
Alberta Health Services, and is actively involved with
Grande Prairie and Area Safe Communities, a community
organization that teaches elementary school-aged children
about home, rural and traffic safety.
“When I talk to kids, I say: ‘Use what you have in front of
you. Certain things are negotiable, certain things are not.
When it comes to wearing a helmet, that’s not negotiable.
You don’t get on a bike without one,’ ” Hodder says.
Sheehan says a common denominator needed in all
children’s activities and safety promotion is physical literacy.
“Physical literacy is about being comfortable and confident
and competent. From a motor development perspective,
when we ‘bubble wrap’ (overprotect) our kids, we’re limiting
the opportunities they have to experience life as it was meant
to be experienced.”
What children need most are safe places where they can
easily go to be challenged and gain the confidence that
comes from developing their physical skills.
— Scott Seymour
safety and risk
Children need a challenge to develop
Children learn the rules of the road at Grande Prairie’s Safety City.