Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that involves a risk of physical injury, and play that provides opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries, and learning about injury risk.
Why is risky play considered important?
- It provides children with the opportunity to assess risk and manage sticky situations. These can then turn into learning experiences, like for young children who take risks, they learn how to walk, run, climb or ride a bike. Learning to do these things involves some risk, but they are important in the overall development of a child.
- It gives kids a sense of accomplishment and fun. Studies by the National Children’s Bureau of England found feelings associated with risky play such as fun, enjoyment, excitement, thrill, pride, and achievement were reasons children often give for engaging in risky play(Coster and Gleeve 2008).
- Swinging, climbing, rolling, hanging and sliding are not only fun for children but are also essential for their motor skills, balance, coordination, and body awareness. It increases children’s physical skills and motor skills. It also teaches them about their own limits and how to deal with risks in the future.
- Developing less fear. Children who do not engage in risky play are more likely to have fear of movement and feel uncomfortable in their own body. This will make them less willing to try new things in the future.
What are the benefits of risky play?
- Children need and should take risks in order to explore limits, have new experiences, and develop their capacities. A strong motivation to respond to challenges involving a risk of injury helps them learn how to walk, climb stairs, and ride bicycles. As they grow and develop they will have to make choices about what is safe to attempt and what is not.
- Develops self-confidence and well being. It becomes a source of pleasure for the child as they foster new learning experiences. Importantly, it aids them to when interacting with children of different age ranges.
Why are there declining opportunities for outdoor risky play?
- Risk-taking in play has been increasingly regulated, managed and controlled. Because of this, according to studies by Ellen Sandseter (2010a, pg. 8), this safety-obsessed society results in children who are less physically fit, have little control over motor skills and are less able to manage risk.
- Nowadays, children spend more time watching television and playing indoors than being physically active outdoors. Social and environmental factors are also affecting children’s opportunities for outdoor play. Parents are worried about traffic, kidnapping and of the dangers. However, Sandseter found through her research that children will find risky play opportunities given any kind of environment.
How should parents manage risk and challenge?
Effective risk assessment and management requires; observing the children and identifying those who need great or more specific support, establishing and displaying expectations for behaviour, and actively encouraging children to assess risks and possible consequences. Parents should also try to identify the benefits, rewards, and outcome of the activity.
What life skills that could be learned through risky play?
Some life skills that could be learned through risky play include:
- Building Resilience And Persistence
- Balance And Coordination
- Awareness Of Their Capabilities And Limits
- Ability To Assess And Make Judgement About Risk
- Handling Tools Safely And With Purpose
- Understanding The Consequence Of An Action
- Confidence And Independence
- Creativity And Inventiveness
- Curiosity And Problem Solving Skills
Coster, D. & Gleeve, J. (2008) Give us a go! Children and young people’s views on play and risk-taking. Play Day. Retrieved 17th April 2014 from http://www.playday.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/give_us_a_go___children_and_young_peoples_views_on_play_and_risk_taking.pdf
Sandseter, E. B. H. (2010a). Scaryfunny. A Qualitative Study of Risky Play Among Preschool Children. Doctoral dissertation: Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Retrieved 17th April 2014 from https://brage.bibsys.no/xmlui/handle/11250/270413
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