Summer Madness: Dangerous Stuff I’m Going To Let My Girls Do During Vacation

I admit it: I’m a punk overly cautious, protective to a fault. Particularly when it comes to my babies. I mean, I want Mari and Lila to be fearless to use their voice, speak their minds and follow their hearts, no matter if it leads them down a path less traveled. The path to success is paved with conviction and courage; I want my daughters to be bold.

But um, yeah, when it comes to letting them do dangerous crap? I’m not the one. While Nick is quick to encourage our girls to play with ugly bugs, helicopter jump off furniture, ride their bikes with no hands while the wind smacks their pretty little faces, I’m their personal Ambassador of No. There will be no jumping, touching, and putting bodies at risk under my watch. You’ll shoot your eye out.

They’re my babies, see, and I’m not about to put them in harm’s way or encourage them to do stupid stuff. My mother, God bless her soul, once told me that my job as a mother is to keep my kids from killing their fool selves as I escort them to adulthood. And I take my job seriously.

I do realize, though, that as an adult, there’s nothing worse than being captive to your fears, paranoias and phobias. But by the time you’re grown, it’s almost too late to change them without a $300 shrink or at the very least, scaring the hell out of yourself. I mean, I get why my parents never really spent a whole lot of time playing with me outside, but when that translates into me being willing to jump out of a moving car rather than face down a bug, or argue down the 11-year-old for a half hour about why it’s just not a good idea to swim in the ocean or have dinner out on the lovely deck in perfect weather, it’s a problem.

So in the interest of raising bold, fearless warriors with tiger’s blood rather, to keep my daughter’s punkness to the minimum I’m going to try to do some things a little different. This inspiration comes not from my husband but from Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler, authors of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) a fascinatingly fun book that offers a radical concept for us parents: Teach your children about safety by exposing them to risk. Tulley and Spiegler say that experimenting with dangerous things helps foster creativity and teach problem solving by encouraging children to explore the world around them.

In their book, coddling = helplessness.

50 Dangerous Things encourages us parents to nurture forgotten abilities with old-fashioned, hands-on learning, like burning things with a magnifying glass, taking apart a radio, and even shocking your tongue by licking a 9-volt battery.

Basically, stuff I’d NEVER allow Mari and Lila to do.

Which is precisely why I’m going to let my girls do them.

50 Things resembles a field guide, with easy-to-follow instructions, plus space for notes and completion dates for 50 child-friendly challenges. I’m picking 15 things from the book and making a bucket list of dangerous, dirty stuff the girls and I will do during summer vacation. Here they are:


Mari and Lila’s 15 Dangerous Things Bucket List

  1. Cooking Something In the Dishwasher
  2. Lick a 9-volt Battery
  3. Make A Bomb In A Bag
  4. Put Strange Stuff In the Microwave
  5. Look At the Sun
  6. Superglue Your Fingers Together
  7. Explode A Bottle In the Freezer
  8. Melt Glass
  9. Stick Your Hand Out the Window Of A Moving Car
  10. Drive A Car
  11. Boil Water In A Paper Cup
  12. Burn Things With A Magnifying Glass
  13. Make A Slingshot
  14. Deconstruct An Appliance
  15. Drive A Nail

I’ll be taking lots of pictures and the kids will be taking lots of notes as we complete the 15 Dangerous Things Bucket List and, of course, I’ll post the results here on MyBrownBaby. *Insert image of Denene making a sign of the cross* Pray for us!

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. As a child I did 2, 4, 5, 6(numerous times), 7, 9, 10, 11 (by accident), 13, 14, and 15. I was a serious tomboy and now I am more of a girly girl, LOL.

    After all of that – I am perfectly okay and my dare-devil spirit is gone, lol. I know some folks that grew up in overprotective households and the things they did in college were ridiculous. I have to save a few of them because they didn’t have the experience to know “don’t do that.”

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      I LOVE it, Tia! I’m so far from a daredevil, it’s ridiculous. But I’m trying to get my girls to be a little better about that. This is my attempt at it. Because you’re absolutely right about that college/on-your-own-for-the-first-time thing—I was THAT freshman. #scary

  2. I’ve done it all…that’s what growing up in the stix will do to you! haha! BUT, I don’t let my kids do stuff like that….however, grandma did buy them a trampoline. That’s pretty risky in my book. It has done wonders for their confidence, fitness, coordination, and learning how to take turns, follow rules, deal with anger, energy, etc. I may have to check this book out! :0)

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Jodi, it’s a pretty cool little book. Crazy as it is, in my 42 years on this earth, the only three things in this book I’ve ever done is put my hand outside a moving car, ride public transportation across town and walk to school. The last two were out of necessity (both my parents worked and there was no driving me to school or work). I can’t believe, honestly, that I’ve never done any of this stuff. Quietly? I’m a little geeked to be doing them, too.

  3. Sounds like great fun!! I am (or was) of caution….but had 8 kids wanting to do things that I found dangerous.
    So we created ‘supervised danger’….fun/dangerous things that they could do but with supervision. It opened their minds to new things and there was less cause to seek danger in other places =)
    One thing that is great fun, to add to the list…. coke and mentos
    Take a 2 liter bottle of coke ( only half full) drop a few mentos in, put the top on and back away many feet….(best done in an open space) It foams, and then the top explodes off.
    It is fun even for the adults


    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Supervised danger—I like that. And the coke/Menthos experiment DOES sound like fun! Thanks for sharing it!

      • Barbara Soloski Albin

        Denene – The soda and mentos trick they did on Criminal Minds, the character who plays Spencer was fooling around on the show to see how long he could get a cork (?) to shoot across a room. Barbara

  4. Barbara Soloski Albin

    3, 8 and 11 are making me a bit nervous. A bomb – just a bag filled with flour or something dangerous? I too was a very protective mother, both my grown sons would tell you this today! They both still laugh at me, not with me, but at me. You are right, though, children have to experience these things and can not be told NO all the time! I think some of these things are what help to make them well rounded children. I know we think of them as spun glass, but my husband was always telling me that they won’t break. Not totally true, there were a few broken bones, but mostly from everyday activities. LOL LOL LOL

  5. I have hidden the pogo stick; I resisted the scooter; and I’ve asked my husband to put the training wheels back on my 7 year old’s bike. Fortunately, he is more sensible and adventurous than I and our kids will be able to count on him to do all the crazy stuff with them. He would absolutely buy that book. I just hope they will give me fair warning so that I can make it a point to be out of the house before they try any of the experiments.

  6. Denene, did I write this? I could have written that whole thing word for word, except I only have on daughter. It’s crazy how much I want her to be fearless and how much fear I have within myself. Thanks for the book tip!

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