The increasing number of kids stuck indoors in front of screens, greatly reduces the time that children have to play away from direct adult supervision
Risky play is defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that provides opportunities for children to learn about challenge, test limits, explore boundaries and learn about risk of possible injury: What happens if I do this? All play involves an element of risk, such as sliding, climbing trees, rough and tumble and by feeding children’s natural curiosity and innate need to explore with reasonable risks prevents them from finding greater unmanaged risks for themselves.
As adults, we can help children learn to manage risks for themselves and understand safety and don’t forget that children will fall down, scratch themselves and get bumps and bruises — this is not always a bad thing but part of an active and fun childhood.
- Set up an adventure course in the back gar¬den with platforms, tunnels, jumps, balancing benches and beams, tyres and swings.
- Let your child climb trees: choose trees that are an appropriate height for your child’s abil¬ity and see how high they can go. Learning to navigate the branches gives a real sense of adrenaline and then achievement. Your child’s inner instinct will let them know when they have climbed high enough and they will want to get back down.
- Encourage your children to build dens and use sticks to write in the mud – your child’s imagination will flow as their hut will become a castle or a dungeon, their hideout away from adults.
- Learning to ride a bike and negotiating the world on skates (especially going downhill!), are both great for building your child’s physical confidence in their own abilities. Also, simply climbing a wall and jumping off it will increase their awareness of balance, height, distance and they can make judgement calls and test their own boundaries at the same time.
- For younger children, create a digging area in the garden and allow them to explore the earth, to dig for worms and bugs, and plant herbs creating smelling pots and then make perfume by grind¬ing them together. They will also love puddles, watering plants and collecting rain water from the water butt to make mud pies.
- Go to the mountains and just walk and run — let your children roll down hills and it’s even more fun in the snow in winter on the back of a toboggan.
- Have a separate area in your own back garden so that babies and toddlers can crawl and explore safely in their own space.
- Define areas for playing chase, ball games, swings etc for older children.
- When in the park, quickly scan and check the immediate area for any potential risks, like broken glass or nails and remove them.
- Language is important. Don’t create a fear in your child or pass on yours. Talk to them about risk and injury — ask open questions like, what do you think might happen if you jump off a wall that is very high?
- Encourage them to make their own risk assessments and to think about the possible consequences of their actions.
- Help your child to understand risk, danger and injury and give appropriate examples, like using sticks as swords could hurt others.
- Introduce the environment and discuss the possible consequences of misusing it and let the child determine the risk.
- When tree-climbing, if your child is too anxious to balance on a high branch, suggest starting on a lower branch to develop their confidence.
Dearbhala is Director of Childcare with Giraffe Childcare