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Risky Play and Its Role In Early Childhood Learning and Development

Posted by Jane Shearer on September 21, 2021 at 1:35 PM

Early childhood learningResearchers suggest that engagement in risky play provides children an opportunity to navigate and cope with uncertainty, resulting in decreased anxiety, according to a recent Canadian study.

Risky play is defined as a thrilling activity involving challenges that test limits and the possibility of getting injured. Typically, children love trying out new things and, in the process, seek opportunities that allow them to engage in challenging activities or risky play.

While risky play might seem dangerous for kids, it offers many benefits, including improved social, motor, and spatial skills, critical aspects in building student learning capacity. Below are some of the essential roles of risky play in early childhood learning and development.

Improves Adaptability and Risk Assessment Skills

Taking risks is crucial to a child's development, as it provides opportunities to move out of the comfort zone and experiment with new things. Engaging in different types of risky play, such as climbing heights, running at high speed, and playing around dangerous environments like large water bodies, help children develop skills to cope with feelings of nervousness and fear.

The ability to deal with anxiety and fear enables a child to explore and adapt to new situations and environments quickly. Over time, children can assess risks and determine their consequences, a skill that is critical to identify what's safe to experiment with and things that won't work.

Naturally, kids who engage in risky play often are less likely to get injured because they know how to identify risks and make wise decisions.  

Safe Risks Help Kids Take Initiative

Risky play involves challenges where kids can negotiate which one is better and initiate the activity by themselves. For example, a child can climb a tall climbing frame, swing higher, or explore a risky area within the playground. When children initiate risky play, they learn how to set their goals and find ways to achieve them without help from their elders. 

However, as a parent or educator, you should consider creating opportunities for risky play without exposing children to severe injuries. For instance, let's say a child wants to learn how to climb a tree. Check the tree size to ensure it can support your child's weight as they climb up. Look around for broken branches and remove them to prevent falls. 

Other considerations when teaching kids safe tree climbing include weather, clothing, and fun activities. As a general rule of thumb, kids should not climb trees when it's raining because rainwater makes branches slippery.

On the other hand, incorporating fun play, like encouraging the child to imagine climbing the tree like a monkey or bear, helps them overcome fear.

Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Risky play often puts children in situations or surroundings that require them to assess and make wise decisions under pressure.

Being able to evaluate risks helps children deal with stressful things without fear or anxiety. Additionally, risky play is one of the best ways to build resilience in kids, as it helps children learn that things don’t always work as planned.  

Risky play plays a critical role in early childhood learning and development as it provides opportunities to try new and challenging things. In turn, a child becomes resilient, persistent, self-confident, and independent.

Taking risks during play also helps a child assess situations, learn how to solve problems, and become creative.

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Topics: Confidence & Resilience, Social & Emotional Learning

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