What is Risky Play and Why is it Important?
Children need to be kept safe from potential harm and hazards at all times, but they also need to explore and take risks. Risky play is exciting, challenging, fun, it pushes limits and there is every chance of physical injury. We don’t want children’s lives to be in danger, or any serious injury to be likely. That’s why with any new piece of equipment we carry out a risk assessment. This allows us to assess whether the risk of a resource or activity outweighs the benefit. Is something guaranteed to be seriously dangerous? Well, then it’s probably not ok. But if there is a low chance of bumps, grazes, or cuts? Maybe that’s alright.
The Experience of risky play is an important part of children’s learning. It develops the child’s self-confidence, resilience, promotes problem solving and trust in their own judgements as adults. Children have the right to make decisions and take risks through their play. In having these opportunities, children will be able to maximise their enjoyment of the environment whilst removing obvious risk. The ‘United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ states in article 31: ‘All Children have the right to relax and play and to join in a wide range of activities.’
In our Centre we encourage children to manage their own risk in everyday play situations both indoors and out.
- Climbing a high tree
- Rope swinging
- Whittling wood
- Using tools at the woodwork bench, saws, hammer and drills
- Playing in the stream to build a dam
- Building fires
- Running fast, chasing each other.
It’s easy to say things like: “Be Careful,” and if you listen to yourself on how many times a day you say it with your child you will be amazed. What we are actually doing is telling children to stop and it’s for our benefit because we don’t want our children to get hurt. If instead we ask: –
- Do you feel safe?
- Can you see anything that could hurt you or be in the way?
- What can I do to help you to be safe?
- Where can you put your hand next?
This helps the child to focus on the environment around them. With time and Space, the child will revisit this experience, remember what they did before and build on that knowledge.