Contrary to popular logic, playing with Fire, Knives, Glass, Tools, Beehives and even Superglue isn’t bad for your children.  Who would have thought?  Well, at least thats the opinion of Gever Tulley and wife Julie Spiegler, who last month released their first book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)

“It’s a guidebook for overprotective parents,” says Tulley, who lives with his wife in Montara, just north of Half Moon Bay. “It will help them think more rationally about danger and risk. And it’s also a source book for adventurous parents who are looking for new things to do with their kids.” Source:


Tulley had previously founded Tinkering School, a sleepover camp on a farm where kids could build extravagant things and then play with the things they built.  While this already is very beneficial to children, I am in complete agreement with Tulley’s opinion on what kids should or shouldn’t play with.  So long as parents are supervising their children, the kids should be allowed to play with just about anything, within reason.  The parents need to guide the children to ensure they don’t do any permanent damage to themselves.  A little damage, however, is perfectly fine … what better way to learn than to hurt yourself a little in the process?

Here are some items from the SFGate article that they picked out from the book (with some minor commentary on my part).

1) Play with fire. [Great way to get rid of uninvited guests or annoying neighbors] “Learning to control one of the most elemental forces in nature is a pivotal moment in any child’s personal history,” says Tulley. “It’s the first time we get control of one of these mysterious things. And the open pit fire is a laboratory. By playing with fire, children learn about about ‘intake,’ ‘combustion,’ ‘exhaust.’ Fire stimulates the imagination and kids who play with it keep thinking of new ways to experiment with it. It creates a wonderful context for self-directed learning.”

2) Throw rocks. [My neighbors cat comes to mind, I hate that beast] “Our brains are wired for throwing things,” Tulley says. “And like muscles if you don’t use parts of your brain they tend to atrophy over time. When you exercise them any given muscle adds strength to the whole system and that applies to the brain. Children need to practice throwing things because it activates the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, which help with visual acuity, 3-D understanding, reasoning and structural problem-solving. Throwing is a combination of analytical and physical skills, so it’s good for whole-body training.”

“You learn from each toss,” Tulley adds. “Each toss teaches you about the physics of rocks and their trajectory. And you gain a basic understanding of distance, which later in life helps you estimate how far it is from here to there.”

3) Deconstruct appliances. [Try to stick to ‘other peoples’ appliances] “Children grow up with these magical boxes all around them,” Tulley explains. “The dishwasher washes dishes. The microwave cooks thing. By taking the appliances apart, kids realize that these things weren’t built by magic. They were built by people. Even if they don’t know what all the individual parts are, they can puzzle out what they might be for. They get a sense that they can take things apart and no matter how complex the thing is they can understand parts of it. They gain a sense of knowability–that something is knowable.”

4) Drive a car. [Very useful when you need to get home after a long night of drinking] Many parents keep their kids away from the driver’s seat for fear they might take the car for a spin before they turn 16. But Tulley argues that allowing their kids to drive–in a big empty parking lot with an adult–helps them realize just what a big responsibility it is to be behind the wheel. It also sates their desire to drive. He also says, “Driving a car is an empowering act for a young child. It gives them a handle on the world in a way that they don’t often have access to.” Tulley says that kids as young as 5 or 6 can sit in their parents lap and pull out of the driveway.

5) Put strange stuff in the microwave. [Like Hamsters or other small pets] “Every day you do a scientific experiment in your kitchen,” Tulley says. “You put stuff in the microwave and ding! your food is cooked. But no one ever thinks about what a microwave is and how it works. By experimenting with it, children learn boundaries for what’s safe and not safe to put in the microwave.”

Headline stolen from Fark