Allowing children to explore and take risks through their play is important for their learning and development. Learning through taking risks continues throughout childhood and into adulthood. Risky play includes situations where there is a challenge involved, leading to thrilling, exciting and often more physically demanding approaches to the task.
Through this type of play, children are encouraged to problem solve through challenges and make decisions or plans about how to approach situations – essentially managing the risk. Naturally, they are stepping out of their comfort zone and being encouraged to make their own decisions. Supporting children through risky play means that they are more likely to have improved judgement skills, perception, increased independence, and understanding of health and wellbeing. It also provides them with a sense of accomplishment that they achieved their goal.
Examples of risky play:
- Rough and tumble play
- Climbing on the playground / in a tree
- Using kids knives to cut strawberries
- Swimming lessons
Examples of skills learnt:
- Independence and responsibility
- Risk perception and management – e.g. learning how to navigate or avoid dangerous tasks or environments
- Planning and problem solving
- Improved judgement
- Social skills and conflict resolution
- Improved self esteem and resilience
- Motor skills, balance and coordination
- Understanding their physical limits, capabilities and boundaries
As parents, the natural instinct is to protect them from these potentially dangerous situations, change the environment or take the child away. However, it can be helpful to consider what is “safe and necessary” rather than “safe as possible” when navigating these situations; so that we are facilitating their learning opportunity and preventing injury, while guiding them through the strategies, problem solving and management of the risk. Take opportunities to talk about risk at any time, including hypothetical situations.
Rather than saying no, try talking them through the risks. For example:
- Where should you put your foot next?
- Do you think you could fall from there?
- What do you think could happen if you climb higher?
For some families, risky play can be incredibly challenging. Please consider your individual child’s abilities, age, and safety awareness before engaging in risky play, making sure that it’s appropriate to them. Whether your child is having difficulty with risk management, safety, motor skills, or something else entirely, your occupational therapist will be able to provide you with strategies and support to assist both your family and your child. The therapists at Kids that Go may just be the answer you are looking for. Feel free to contact us on 07 3087 1904.