“That is way too high for you!”
“That is dangerous! NO!”
“You can hurt yourself!”
What is risky play?
Think back to your childhood. You were probably around your friends, unsupervised and untouchable. You could do ANYTHING you wanted, you just had to be home for dinner!
These days children are often not spending as much time as they should outside and this can affect a child's development, creativity, and potentially lose their connection to nature. Risky play in early childhood can help develop a child’s resilience, self-confidence, gross-motor and fine-motor abilities and even risk-management skills. Engaging in risky play can also prevent injury if taught correctly.
Parents' fears can often get in the way of children's freedoms when playing outside. Risky play often involves children testing their boundaries in a new experience, such as climbing a tree. There are many fears that arise for parents in those situations, but instead of inhibiting your child's freedoms, I urge parents and educators to be their guide instead.
What does risky play look like to adults?
“Mom, I want to climb this tree” Instead of saying no because it may cause a fear inside of you, guide them under the tree using your own risk management skills!
“Put this foot here… reach for that branch… use your hand to pull yourself up…”
This allows for parents and adults to feel safer about the situation when they are in control and narrate what they know to help their child understand how to safely engage in risky play.
Woah, this is so cool! I can see EVERYTHING!
- Elodie, age 5
Risky play is so important for children, it is not a specific lesson or activity. Instead, risky play is simply an expression of unstructured play. It means children are taking a personally determined risk that has a potential for physical injury. In no way does this imply that the adults who are supervising unstructured play are encouraging or pushing childrens limits to take risks beyond what they have already explored. In fact, a good risky play practice requires the adults to be aware of, and make important decisions, in a safe and learning manner that is safe of hazards and potential injury.
We know how curious children are, it is in their nature to explore, discover and test their boundaries. Children need to experience in order to learn, that is why adults are often scared of what might happen to their child. It is also in our nature to protect our children from possible injury, yet we are also in charge of how they can maneuver their actions to prevent injury. If injury does happen, the child understands that next time they should have taken a different approach.
I love climbing this tree, I feel on top of the world!
- Arlo, age 4
Some great resources on more information on risky play and unstructured play!
New York Times: Risky play Encourages Resilience: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/parenting/risky-play.html
Our Relationship to Risk, Judy Klein (Ted Talk)
What to say instead of be careful. A great resource to alter our language.
- Aja Bezzeg
Aja Bezzeg is one of our Lead Wymbin Educator’s and the artist behind our newest Wymbin merchandise! When she isn’t in the classroom she is exploring outdoors, playing with her dog Kino and finding new ways to stay active! Aja is passionate about Risky play and Outdoor play! She is in her last semester at Bow Valley and cannot wait to learn outside of school!
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Visit our online shop for Wymbin merchandise - featuring designs by Aja Bezzeg!