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Risky Play – to risk or not to risk?

​Here at SafetyNest, we believe in the importance of allowing children to take risks. We can help mitigate these risks through SafetyNest tools, but we wanted to share with you how important risk taking is to our children.

More and more research is being done on the benefits of allowing children to engage in risky play and how important this is, particularly in the early years.

All too often as a modern society, we feel that there are too many rules in place that make we as adults feel unsafe to let our tamariki learn to assess their own abilities and therefore which risks they should and shouldn’t take.  

We as teachers and parents shouldn’t necessarily let a child put themselves in real danger, for example running out in front of a moving car, but it is enormously important that we help our children to grow their resilience and coping mechanisms to set them up from an early age for the rest of their lives.

By restricting a child’s reaction to taking a risk instead of allowing this essential development tool to grow, we run the real risk of this leading to grown-ups that are risk-adverse, fearful and anxious.

Mariana Brussoni, a professor at the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital has spent many years researching the benefits of play that have an element of risk. Risky play for children, she explains, is “thrilling and exciting play where children engage in risk without certainty,” and it has been proven to have immense benefits.

Risky play involves kids experimenting and pushing themselves to figure out what will happen, without knowing the exact outcome. If kids don’t go far enough with their play, it’s boring and if they go too far, it gets too scary, Brussoni explains. She likens it to a science experiment, where kids are testing out their environment and determining what they’re comfortable with.

“When we have kids engage in play, it’s really a fundamental way for them to figure out the world — how the world works, how their body works,” says Brussoni, adding that these little experiments are all done “in context of a relatively safe space.” 

Brussoni’s work has shown risky play in early childhood can help develop a child’s self-confidence, resilience, executive functioning abilities and even risk-management skills and can actually reduce the risk of injury, too.

Morgan Clode – founder of Good Natured Education, shared her thoughts on the topic of risky play with us recently.

“As a nature educator, knowing how many benefits come from children engaging in risky play, I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I have been able to play a part in ensuring that these nature play spaces are selected with an opportunity and benefits outlook. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

As a team, we get to know our sites well by completing Risk Benefit Assessments on our frequently visited sites around the Farm. By looking for the learning opportunities for each site, becoming aware of what grows, what natural flora we can observe, collect for further creation and harvest for kai, we are able to utilise our spaces to enhance learning. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

By acknowledging the potential risks as a team, we are able to better support children's ability to self-assess their own personal boundaries, support them set personal challenges and identify potential harm while playing outdoors, so that they can keep themselves safe. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Pictured is the "Mud Slide" at Gems Farm School in Queenstown. We adopted this play space mid last year, so we are observing and getting to know how this space changes over the seasons. Each season we revisit our Risk Benefit Assessment and add new learning opportunities and potential risks that may come from changing seasons... And this site just keeps giving! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

The sun beams through the lush green canopy highlighting the dusty air from the dry summer ground... nature’s way of highlighting risky play in all its glory. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Contact us today to find out more about how SafetyNest can help you to mitigate your risks. ⠀⠀⠀


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