Spring Fields Nursery

Risky Play in the Classroom

Risky Play in the Classroom

Risks are everywhere and being able to manage them appropriately is a life skill. Risky play means providing opportunities for children to encounter or create uncertain, unpredictable and potential hazards as part of their play. Of course, this doesn’t mean putting children in danger of serious harm. Something as simple as learning how to walk is a natural risky learning moment that often comes with bruises, a few tumbles and handful of falls.

Risky play is a natural part of children’s play and children, as we may already know, tend to push their boundaries and challenge themselves to do things, without the help of an adult. We often see this outdoors. How many times have we seen a child climbing up the slide instead of using the stairs and a friend imitating the action? Hanging upside down on monkey bars and climbing trees are other examples amongst many. Of course, this often gives us a bit of anxiety, however, our job is to be good role models and provide children with opportunities to take calculated risks. Our positivity can go a long way and if we find an act unsafe, our role istoguidechildrenas to how they can do something safely, instead of asking them to stop the risk entirely.

Before we continue any further, let us tell you what risky play isn’t!

Risky play is not:

  • Letting children do whatever they want
  • Standing too far from a child when they are trying something new
  • Not stepping in when a child is doing something that is clearly unsafe

Risk taking is beneficial to children and we only wish more parents and educators understood this. Allowing children to jump from heights, balance and hangup side down are all essential skills that aid their development. It helps children’s confidence, self-regulation, independence and so much more.

Risky play also helps children understand cause and effect, as well as spatial awareness. While children are engaging in risky play, they are constantly learning and developing many new and emerging skills.

How, then, can we facilitate risky play within the classroom?

Risky play can happen both indoors, as well as outdoors. Adults are often the ones that try to limit risks because of our fear of what can happen. Let’s be honest, how many times have we heard a colleague saying, “Don’t do that!” “That’s too high!” This is the stigma that we should strive to break free from. Our purpose is to use positive language that promotes and encourages calculated risky play. “Do you feel safe?” “How high do you want to go?” The scaffolded questions will give the child a chance to consider what will happen next and how their decisions will influence what they do.

Now, that we have managed to get our team of educators on board, how should we reassure the parents that are concerned about risky play?

Here are some of our techniques that we use to help parents understand the purpose behind this further.

  • Define risky play for them
  • Explain how children’s play requires some element of risk-taking
  • Reassure parents that children are always supervised
  • Explain the environment set up and the risks are age-appropriate and developmentally necessary
  • Provide examples of other successful risky play opportunities that the children have been involved in

Risky play teaches children about their own limits and by carefully promoting risky play, we are offering children an environment where they have the freedom to explore, learn and play, as they develop into confident young learners.


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