Risky Play

A lot of us aren’t comfortable discussing the topic of risky play, let alone allowing the children in our care to engage in it. Understandably, we want to err on the side of caution when it comes to our children’s health and safety. Risky play can take many forms. You see it when a child engages in behavior such as diving on bean bag chairs or climbing on outdoor play equipment. We have all seen children engage in this type of play, and there are many strong opinions out there about whether or not to allow it in our classrooms. 

So, what is the right answer? As early childhood professionals, we are heavily invested in children’s development. Social and emotional skill development has been proven to be imperative to children’s success in life outside of the classroom and in the real world.  The article Eliminate Barriers to Risk Taking in Outdoor Play published by NAEYC provides us with some perspective and guidance. We know that children learn best through play, and children early in life are gaining new gross motor skills that they are eager to practice and try out! It is important that we allow children the opportunity to broaden their motor skill development in a safe environment where we feel comfortable. 

This means that in order for us to allow children these opportunities, we have to adjust our supervision during these times in order to keep them safe while fostering exploration and excitement in their new abilities! Have open conversations with your families to talk about the benefits of allowing free play with close supervision. Discuss parameters that you can agree upon that provide a sense of security for families and healthy growth for our young ones. We can foster a learning environment that is rich in play opportunities by setting our indoor learning spaces up to provide ample space for exploration with enough room to accommodate multiple children in different interest areas. Fostering child-initiated and child-led engagement is a key step in encouraging play. Have fun with each individual child and talk to them about everything that they are experiencing. Most importantly, let them play!