Updated: Jun 8, 2022
Eliminating every risk a child encounters prevents their long term independence and ability to navigate the world. The debate has raged for years between parents about the balance of safety during play versus allowing children to engage in risky play.
During a recent conversation with Swedish author Linda Åkeson McGurk (There's No Such Thing As Bad Weather), we discussed the merits of risky play for early childhood development and how parental aversion to risk actually hampers our children's development. We discussed that if children don't learn to navigate low risks when they are small, they are more likely to get injured when they are bigger and stronger later in life.
'Risky Play' is often described in six categories:
1) Play with great heights (e.g. climbing trees)
2) Play with high speed (e.g. running or riding)
3) Play with harmful tools (e.g. sharp saws)
4) Play near dangerous elements (e.g. fire)
5) Rough-and-tumble play (e.g. using sticks for a pretend swordfight)
6) Play where the children can "disappear" or get lost (e.g. playing/walking in the woods)
Mariana Brussoni, a professor at the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital — explains that risky play has a number of important benefits for children, from a physical and cognitive perspective. Kids who engage in 'Risky play' have the opportunity to develop life skills, such as:
Ability to judge their environment
Balance & Coordination
Creativity & Problem solving
To learn more about the benefits of outdoor play from Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscom (Author of Balanced and Barefoot), Register Here.
Studies in recent years overwhelmingly support the merits of risky play in childhood. One study in Norway investigated the changing attitudes of early childhood educators in relation to risks, and found that safety restrictions resulted in frustration for both practitioners AND children.
Injury-proofing our children's play environments often make them less stimulating and challenging, which ultimately reduces the healthy developmental opportunity for our kids.
According to Brussoni, parents should focus more on allowing our children to play in ways that are ‘as safe as necessary’ rather than ‘as safe as possible’.