Risky Play: why we love and need it!

For children, outdoor play is a basic need and inherent to play is the necessity of risk.   Risky play takes many different shapes, but always involves pushing limits and comfort zones in a thrilling and exciting way.  It’s about testing oneself – and finding out what happens.

During risky play, children not only experience an element of danger – actual or perceived – but they also risk receiving the potential benefits.  Risky play is integral to whole-child development, well-being and health.  It helps children develop self-esteem, confidence and their socio-emotional self.  Risky play helps develop physical literacy in children and cognitive skills.  Moreover, it helps children learn how to manage risks and be safe – this is why it is so important!

At FS Forest and Nature School we engage children in six categories of risky play (Sandseter, 2007):

PLAY AT GREAT HEIGHTS
Ever notice that if there is anything to be climbed, kids will climb it? Playgrounds, trees, slopes or rock walls at Metcalfe, it will be climbed.

ROUGH AND TUMBLE
Think back to when you were a kid – fencing with sticks? Wrestling with friends?  Rolling around in snow? This type of play is a balance between play and real fighting.PLAY AT

PLAY WITH DANGEROUS TOOLS
Saws, knives, hammers and drills.  Whittling or cutting firewood.  Though supervised these are potentially dangerous and we learn to respect and use these tools with care – and never before 10 AM (too sleepy!) or after 2PM (again, sleepy time).

PLAY WITH A CHANCE OF “GETTING LOST”
This happens when children are given a chance to be alone, disappear and even perceive being disappearing.

PLAY AT GREAT SPEEDS
Paddling a river, or riding a bike – the risk of crashing or flipping or just simply falling off.

PLAY NEAR DANGEROUS ELEMENTS
Water, cliffs, rocky trails and forests are all part of our landscape and where we play every day.

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