Why Risk Taking is an Important Part of Play

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When I was a child I remember zooming down a very steep hill on a skateboard only to come shooting off at the bottom. I climbed trees up to the highest branches and amazingly, avoided falling. When you think back to your childhood play I bet it also involved taking risks. These risks are now considered so dangerous that they must be avoided. Playgrounds are super safe, in my opinion, too safe, and childcare centers and schools are required to have risk assessments for everything, reducing risks to nearly nothing.  I feel wrapping children in cotton wool can limit opportunities for them to experiment and explore, and thus reduce their potential for learning.

So what is risky play?  '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'  (Sandseter (2007; Little & Wyver, 2008)

Why is it so important to allow children to engage in play that involves challenges and taking risks I hear you ask?

When we allow children to take risks we are providing them with opportunities that support them to problem solve and to make decisions. The big wide world is full of risks and children need opportunities to develop the skills associated with managing these risks.  Through risky play children also build resilience, develop problem solving skills and gain an awareness of the capabilities of their own bodies. 

Some examples of risk taking activities that we can introduce to our children are using real tools to cook or create, letting them climb in trees and jump off equipment, supporting them to cook over an open fire or simply giving them an opportunity to explore local bush land.  

Let's prepare our children for life, stand back and let them explore!