Encouraging Risky Play for Development

What Is Risky Play? by Kara Weatherall

Risky play allows kids to push their limits in a safe, yet unpredictable environment. It refers to play that involves thrilling, exciting and physically challenging activities like climbing, jumping, balancing, as well as rough and tumble play.

Risky play on Funky Monkey Bars can be encouraged in many different ways and varies greatly with age. Essentially it aims to test children’s capabilities and build confidence.

Risky play challenges for a five-year-old

  1. Experiencing the speed of the Flying Fox
  2. Completing the Monkey Bars
  3. Climbing the Cargo Net 

Risky play challenges for a three-year-old

  1. Hanging upside down on the Twirly Whirly bars
  2. Climbing the Cargo Net 
  3. Swinging extra high on the Nest Swing

Benefits of Risky Play

Children will start to appreciate their limits and learn about their environment, and begin to understand their capabilities. It allows them to gain confidence in assessing and managing risk. This essentially builds resilience.

Children take responsibility for their actions during risky play and this supports the development of autonomy.

It can improve physical development. Risky play often involves incorporating a range of gross motor skills. It can help children to master a wide range of skills such as balancing, running and jumping, as well as building endurance and strength.

Risky play helps to build confidence and self esteem. When children engage in risky play they challenge themselves and when they master those challenging skills they gain a sense of accomplishment, which fosters improved confidence and self-esteem. This then allows them to try new and more challenging things.

It supports a child's social well-being. Risky play encourages children to build teamwork skills. For example, working together to push each other higher on the flying fox. Teaching them to trust and to work together collaboratively. It can also help children to learn to communicate by encouraging each other.

And it supports their emotional well-being. Engaging in risky play can help children learn to cope with stress. Risky play can involve a wide range of emotions and experiencing these can assist children in learning to manage their emotions throughout life.

For parents and carers, we need to be mindful of our reactions when children engage in risky play. Parenting responses when children take risks can have both a negative or positive affect on the child. Encouraging children to extend their own limits may decrease their level of anxiety and essentially build confidence.

As parents we aim to protect and keep our children safe but we need to look at the benefits for children engaging in risky play. The learning and development can outweigh the small risk of injury.

Author, Kara Weatherall, is a Mum to three active boys (5, 3 and 8 months) and a school teacher. Kara has taken time away from teaching to raise her gorgeous boys and establish a play account on Instagram and Facebook @our.tiny.moments to advocate for open ended play in the early years.  Kara has shared her thoughts on the Benefits of Risky Play for Kids.