Risky Play

September 4, 2020

Risky play… such an amazing way for children to figure out how their bodies work and to test their own limits and boundaries. Adding an element of risk for children while playing has proven to have immense benefits. Some of these benefits include risk management, self-confidence, resilience as well as reducing the likelihood of injury.

How is this possible? Like most things, children learn through experience. When children have the opportunity to test their limits and push themselves, not only do they discover their own boundaries but also gain confidence when they master a task that was perceived as difficult. With this newfound understanding of their limits and the risk level they are comfortable with, children adapt their play to be within these parameters, mitigating the risk of hurting themselves. Eventually children will start to look for potential hazards and will already have knowledge on which to draw reference from to avoid the hazards and make their play space safe.

Children also apply this knowledge when assessing their peers. They realize that their peers may have different levels of comfort and ability. The social development aspect through this exchange allows for children to become socially responsible by acknowledging potential hazards for others and demonstrating a means of proper risk management.

In the featured photo, children were invited to climb the structure when one child suggested jumping off. At first all of the children climbed down to a lower, more comfortable area of the structure and jumped. The confidence of some grew when they made that jump after realizing they were capable and wanted to try again – this time climbing a little higher and jumping a little further. One child seemed to enjoy this challenge and had no issue jumping from the highest point. The next child decided it was too high, and chose to move down again. The other children respected the decision and responded with words of understanding, reassurance and encouragement. A few more climbs and a few more jumps. The children were happy to be trying out their boundaries, knowing that they were in a safe space.

With so many benefits surrounding risky play, we often encourage and facilitate ways for children to engage in meaningful and worthwhile experiences. Educators support children by providing many opportunities to safely try new things and gain confidence in their abilities. The role of the educator in these situations is to assess children’s interests and then build on them by adding new tasks to be mastered and also extend their ideas so they have fun exploring and experimenting.

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