The Benefits Of Challenge

Image of boy and girl climbing the vertical challenge at school camp high ropes adventure activities.

We want to take a minute to talk about CHALLENGE BY CHOICE which can be described as;


At Golden Valleys we love challenge by choice and see it being one of the key enablers of new confidence in kids who attend camp with us!

Let’s be honest… daily life is full of challenge!!

Most of us don’t need to go looking for challenge, life just brings it! Sometimes in waves, sometimes in seasons and sometimes in what seems like a never ending barrage.

In these moments we are drawing heavily on our internal resources of resilience, our personal fortitude for courage and our capacity to rise above. Amazingly, most of the time we do rise above! We were made for challenge and the best thing we can do for our kids is prepare and equip them for that reality and to strengthen their capacity to rise to meet the challenge head on.   

Challenge by choice is a great tool for gaining strength and building capacity for all that life can throw at us.

Enabling kids to choose challenge provides a safe place to explore their ability to rise above and  strengthens a capacity for hard things. It creates a perfect opportunity to stretch the bounds of their capabilities! If the first time our limits are stretched is when we face something out of our control we may not know how to respond. If we have presented our kids with appropriate challenge and allow them to find courage to tackle something stretching, we are serving their capacity to thrive.

Challenge by choice is built on the principle of presenting a particular challenge and allowing each participant to opt in at whatever level they feel comfortable in stretching themselves. As a family, that could be taking a hike and offering the opportunity to climb some rocks, take the steep route, or stay on the path. This allows various levels of participation without creating a sense of failure for not choosing the most challenging option.  


For instance, with the adventure climb here at Golden Valleys our campers are invited to climb a series of obstacles while being belayed by their team. For some, the challenge of just imagining this and watching others do it while assisting with the belay is enough! But for others they are challenged most by trying to climb as quickly as they can and to reach the top faster than the last time! Whist another may feel a sense of accomplishment in just taking 5 or 6 steps up the first obstacle. Choosing to approach a challenge with the simple goal of stretching past their comfort zone and then debriefing the experience with safe people is so fruitful! 

Camp is an incredible place to practice challenge especially when it is coupled with safe facilitation and an opportunity to consider the experience. It’s one of things we love most about our school and school holiday camp programs! Seeing young people gain confidence in their ability to face all that life brings is a core value of the Golden Valleys team. We never want to push someone past their own choice to challenge, but we love presenting challenging experiences and seeing kids thrive and grow through it.  


We want to leave you with a few thoughts and tips on how to bring “challenge by choice” into your home!  

1. Be intentional in engaging challenge

As a family or parent, find ways to identify interests and capacities in your kids and present opportunities just outside of what you know they are comfortable with! For instance, I have a 2 1/2 year old little girl named Ella. Ella loves swimming and she is great at it! She loves jumping in, splashing, kicking and basically all things pool! Ella knows that most times we go swimming she is going to be presented with an opportunity to stretch! It might be sticking her face in the water for the first time, or floating on her back. It might be challenging her to swim with a kick board without Dad holding her up or swimming independently with a swim vest. All of these things are stretching opportunity for Ella and each time they are presented, Ella’s choice is heard and accepted. As she is ready, she continues to try new challenges and in doing so continues to believe in her ability to do what once felt like too much!  

Here’s a list of some ideas: 

  1. Go for a walk that is further or harder than you kids have gone on before
  2. Do a puzzle that feels too big or too hard
  3. Do something none of you have ever done before, something new to the whole family
  4. Climb a tree
  5. Build something from scratch
  6. Try a new recipe or bake something together
  7. Learn a new household skill like mowing the lawn, vacuuming, cleaning, doing the laundry, washing the cars, pruning the plants, taking care of pets
  8. Learn a new game or sport 
  9. Take up a new hobby


2. Present a choice!  

Not everything can be a choice for kids, but presenting choice where possible assists in empowering our kids. When you are beginning to pursue growing capacity through challenges, it’s essential for the level of engagement to be a choice! This is so important because the part of each of us that grows through these experiences shuts down when stress becomes too high. It’s the difference between choosing to jump off the cliff scared and gaining confidence through it or  being pushed off the cliff scared and gaining trauma! Take your family to the cliff and present the opportunity to jump, to stand on the edge, to observe others jumping and celebrate their jump. Whatever the choice, there is value in the discomfort experienced in considering the challenge and choosing freely to stretch themselves!

3. Celebrate the stretch – no matter how big or small

Success in a challenge is not about completing the task perfectly or even completely. Success is about approaching something uncomfortable and engaging it at some level! There is a generative process at work even in imagining a new challenge and deciding “it’s not for me”. The only place nothing is produced is in never considering or being presented with stretching challenges. Begin to find ways to notice and celebrate whatever progress or accomplishment was made in considering a challenge! Things like:

“It was so brave that you came with us and watched!”

“You went further/faster/higher than you ever have before! That’s amazing.”

“You weren’t able to finish this time, but it was incredible to have a go at all!”

4. Talk about it!

So much of this gold is uncovered in considering these experiences together afterwards.  Questions like “how did it feel to have done that?” or “what did you notice in yourself in the process of trying this new thing?” or “what surprised you most about yourself in doing this?”.  Really anything that causes us to consider ourselves in light of our experience creates opportunity for deeper growth and learning through the challenge.  

As we embrace challenge by choice we begin to normalise struggle for our kids and create opportunity for them to explore their limits, try out new experiences and develop their capabilities. It is essential even from a very young age. Children would never learn to crawl, walk, climb stairs or ride a bike if they were not afforded the opportunity to stretch and challenge themselves. 

We are delighted to see adventure camps at Golden Valleys providing such perfect spaces and places to join you in raising confident kids!

Headshot of Brad Olsen - Managing director at Golden Valleys Adventure Camp in Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Brad Olsen

Managing Director

“Thanks for being part of the village.”