Raising Risk Taking Kids

by Stacey Valley, Miss October 2015

My six-year-old Maya, probably like most kids her age, is hesitant in trying new things. She’ll hold onto my leg with shy nervousness when meeting someone new or doing something unfamiliar. It’s an area that we are working on together. I want her to feel comfortable taking risks. I don’t want her apprehension lead to missed adventures.

Childhood is a time of wonder and exploration. It’s a time to climb trees and scrape knees. Of course, there need to be healthy boundaries, but as parents we shouldn’t “bubblewrap” their kids. Children who take risks learn how success feels and how to cope with failures. With your help, they will learn how to process all the emotions that risk can bring. And they will learn to persevere.


Soon after Maya turned three years old, we set off on an adventure of a lifetime – a 13-day trip to Italy just the two of us flying Space A (military stand-by flights). It was a risk traveling with a toddler to a foreign country without reserved commercial seats, and as expected it was a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

High: Maya was a trooper traveling by plane. I just had to keep her well stocked with snacks and movies. She even made a friend on the long flight over.

Low: Maya got food poisoning and puked all over a train car of Italians.

High: Even when she was feeling yucky, gelato hit the spot.


Low: Maya slept through some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever witnessed.

High: She bounced back, and we rode a bike along the Italian coast.


I hope she’ll remember that trip and that it instilled in her a sense of adventure. It was a bucketlist trip of mine for sure. Now I want to help Maya create her own kid bucketlist – a list that will challenge her, lead her to trust in her own judgment, and nudge her to try new things.



  1. Katharine says:

    Great post, Stacey!
    You have a way of dragging a reader on into what you are doing! I don’t fly well, and I cannot imagine a sick child on a plane, at ALL! But you had me. 🙂

    • Stacey says:

      Thank you, Katharine. You should have seen me passing out baby wipes to all the people Maya puked on — and wishing I knew more Italian than Scusi (excuse me). “Sorry my kid puked on you.” wasn’t in my Rick Steves travel guide.

  2. Love this adventure post. I wish my mother had been more adventurous. I think I would have attempted more. But then, maybe not. I was always a scardy cat. So good for you and Maya.

    • Stacey says:

      Thank you, Dorothy. Since I was a single mom at the time, Maya and I did everything together. I lived away from family in another state, so we really didn’t have a choice. We braved the adventure together. It was fun (most of the time). Maya is an independent girl now — sometimes too much so. But I really think those early days of taking risks helped her blossom.

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