Why Risky Play?

I know the feeling – you’re watching your child climb headfirst over the back of the couch or race top-speed down a bumpy sidewalk on their scooter. You can see how this will end. You can picture the bruises, bumps, scraped knees, and tears. You want to save them from this discomfort. You want to intervene.

Knowing the benefits of risky play, I take these moments to step back and ask myself:

●    What is the worst outcome if they continue?
●    Is this environment safe?
●    Does this child feel safe?
●    Does this child feel in control?

While there is a difference between risky play and danger, the answers to these questions may surprise us.

In an effort to avoid bumps and bruises, we sometimes forget the real risk is not engaging in risky play is at all. If a child never falls off their scooter, they will never know how fast they can go before they lose control. 

Sometimes, giving children the opportunity to exercise judgment is the safest thing we can do. 
Children often know their limits better than we do. By putting our own fears aside, we give them the opportunity to explore their own limits and learn to trust their own sense of safety. 

Benefits of Risky Play

Risky play provides children the space to discover what they are truly capable of. It allows them to experience real limitations and boundaries, helping them differentiate between risk and real danger.

Risky play builds confidence and resiliency. Whether it’s finally climbing that tree, or crossing the monkey bars for the first time, the sense of achievement that comes from risky play is unparalleled.

Risky play gives children autonomy over their own bodies, an experience vital to their healthy growth and sense of self.

Risky play improves physical literacy, helps children learn about how their bodies work, and lays the foundation for exploring other areas of play.

Jamie Fenton, Public Programs Coordinator, London Children’s Museum

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