By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Children require environments that allow them to engage in play that is adventurous, challenging and even risky. Risky play helps children learn about their world; test out what is and is not possible; learn about making mistakes; and discover new things about themselves, their space, place, and environment. Risk taking contributes to children’s in-depth problem-solving and critical- thinking skills. Children in over-regulated environments have significantly fewer opportunities to master the challenges that active play spaces provide. Children have a right to environments that offer them the opportunity to experience adventurous, challenging and even risky play as it is important to children’s development and overall well-being (Dietze & Kashin, 2017). These words are from a module on risky play that is part of a free outdoor play training course composed of 12 modules. If you are interested in signing up there is an upcoming April intake and the information is below.
I have had the privilege to work with Beverlie Dietze from Okanagan College to develop these modules. We just returned from Ottawa where we attended meetings with the Lawson Foundation.The Lawson Foundation has an Outdoor Play Strategy and has funded multiple projects across Canada many of which support risky play in early childhood education.
Challenging and adventurous play can be risky. Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting experience that involves a risk of injury, but offers opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries and learning about managing risk (Dietze & Kashin, 2017). According to Peter Gray (2016) to protect children we must actually allow them to play and learn with adult supervision. We must encourage risky play. Children love to play in risky ways – ways that combine freedom and the just the right measure of fear to produce the thrill of exhilaration. Ellen Sandseter (2010) calls it “scaryfunny”. For families and early learning teachers it might just be scary. It is important that information is shared and opportunities presented to help adults understand the significance and benefits of risky play. There is an on-line tool to help us gain the confidence to allow children to engage in more outdoor play from OUTSIDEPLAY.ca.
For readers in the Greater Toronto Area or for those up for a road trip, the York Region Nature Collaborative has an upcoming workshop on Risky Play in Early Childhood Education . I will be facilitating the workshop with my colleague, Cindy Green. This will be the fourth iteration of this workshop. We are attempting to invite adults into play so they can articulate fears and barriers, to be more at ease with children rather than projecting their fears onto children. We will also discuss the importance of a risk-benefit assessment protocol that would include:
- A description of the activity or experienced provided
- The location, tools and equipment used
- The benefits for children
- The possible risks
- The measures taken to reduce risk
The images below were captured during our workshops and they tell a story of adults rediscovering their own inner child while learning and engaging with others to find their own “scaryfunny”.
Risky play supports children to become resilient. Reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development. Let’s do it! Let’s take the risk! Support risky play in early childhood education today!