outdoor play
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Risky Play – Is it worth the Risk?

Sustainable Play Preschool believe that educators and parents need to weigh up the risks versus the benefits of risk taking in the early years. There are so many benefits of taking risks for children’s agency, learning and wellbeing, together educators and children need to consider and reflect on if risks are appropriate to further develop their skills and development.

Risky playWhat 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.


benefits of risky playBenefits of risky play

Some of the benefits of risky play for children are

Resilience and persistence building

Development of balance and coordination

Risk assessment

Safe handling of tools

Learning life-long lessons

Developing spatial awareness

Developing confidence and independence

Developing creativity

Experiencing curiosity and wonder

Problem solving

Identifying their own limits

Building capabilities

Assessing and taking risks allow children to follow their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way, for their own reasons, enabling children to experience positive exhilaration of thrill, overcoming fear of the unknown and the feeling a sense of achievement when the risk has passed. Sustainable Play Preschool believes that children who have opportunities to effectively assess and manage risk at an early age will be better equipped to deal with risk as an adult.


kids cookingRisky play in practice

Here are some examples of risky play that can be provided in the early years

Exploration of real tools – hammers, hand saws

Tree climbing – risks at heights

Loose parts – manipulate, move, collaborate  

Bush kindy excursions – community connection

Free exploration of the outdoors

Rough and tumble play – testing own limits

Preparing food using real knives

Fire pits

Remember that effective supervision is key to ensuring safe risk taking for children. Risk assessments in the early learning environment are a great reflective tool, which can be used to identify and consider hazards which could occur.


kids playingWhat happens when children do not experience risky play?

Without participation in risky play during the early years, children will have limited capabilities to manage risk later in life. When children have not engaged in risky play, they are more likely to have poor coordination and balance, as well as minimal control over their motor skills.

Through observation Angela Hanscom, founder of TimberNook found “More and more children seemed to have poor balance and coordination, were weaker than they should be, and had trouble thinking in creative ways.” “Children were noticeably weaker and their balance systems were significantly underdeveloped as compared with the children of previous generations.”  “Children were getting more aggressive on the playground, kids were falling out of their seats in school on a frequent basis.” She concluded “Children weren’t spending enough time playing outdoors and it was starting to affect their senses and quality of life.”

“Access to active play in nature and outdoors—with its risks— is essential for healthy child development. We recommend increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings—at home, at school, in childcare, the community and nature.” – The Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play