The Benefits of Risky Play

Niño ELABlog

Nino ELA boy on log risky play

A natural part of children’s physical activity involves engaging in play that is challenging, a bit scary and somewhat risky. 

Children actively seek this thrilling type of play and nearly all children love the quivering feeling of butterflies in their belly when they encounter something they do not know if they can manage or what consequences of their actions will be, building upon their sense of positive accomplishment.

At Niño ELA, we support all children in our Niño community to embrace challenges with grit, determination, hope, and a willingness to learn from their experiences. Risky play is an important element that our educators focus on when planning meaningful learning experiences for children, within our services.

What is Risky Play?Nino ELA Risky Play

Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that involves a risk of physical injury, and play that provides opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries and learning about injury risk.

(Sandseter (2007; Little & Wyver,2008), Feb 25,2015)

Why is Risky Play Important at Niño ELA?

Everyday life always involves a degree of risk and children need to learn to cope with this from an early age. Providing opportunities to experience challenge is particularly important in the early years when young children’s brains are still developing. Think about the last time you were challenged by something. Maybe it was a rigorous job interview or training for a marathon. Whatever the challenge, think about what it felt like to be amid that struggle. You may have had thoughts like, I can’t do this, or I should give up. But you didn’t. Now recall how good it felt to overcome that challenge all on your own despite your doubts and fears. How did it feel afterwards? Chances are you felt capable, confident and proud of what you had achieved. Think about who supported you with this empathizing with your struggle while gently encouraging you along. This is precisely what our children want and need from us while they take risks in their play.

At Niño ELA, we cater to each individual child’s strengths, needs and emerging abilities with appropriate levels of challenge or “risk” so that as they progress through their learning journeys, children are able to face each setback and obstacle with a growth mindset and a “can-do” attitude.”

The Benefits of Risky Play

Risk allows children to challenge themselves to the limits of their capabilities and enables them the opportunity to progress with their learning and development. It also allows children to feel in control of their actions, learning and play; they learn boundaries in a safe, secure environment where they can be supported.
Risky play helps to develop important life skill learnings such as:

  • Building resilience and persistence
  • Balance and coordination
  • Awareness of the capabilities and limits of their own bodies
  • The ability to assess and make judgement about risk
  • Handling tools safely and with purpose
  • Understanding consequence to action
  • Confidence and Independence
  • Problem solving
  • Curiosity and wonder

How do we as parents support children engaging in risky play?

  • Closely supervising and observing our children so that we are aware of their physical abilities and play choices.
  • Being physically close enough to step in at a moment’s notice if our children fall.
  • Using our own judgement to assess the “risk versus reward” of what our child is doing.
  • Being conscious of our own anxiety and trying not to transfer that to the child.
  • Offering help when necessary.
  • Acknowledge the challenge and celebrate our child’s successes.
  • Use encouraging words of support to your child when challenging themselves in their environment. For example: “Show me how careful you can be” or “Where do you think your foot can go next?”

Participating in Risky and Challenging Play

Participating in risky and challenging play across our safe learning environments provides our little niños with opportunities for the development of important life learnings.

To learn more about Risky Play at Niño ELA, contact a local centre today.