Risky Play Behaviour in Kids
What is Risky Play Behaviour and should we encourage it?
This month we explored the world of risky play behaviour in our Wide Bay Kids. We first looked at the fundamental functions of risky play behaviour and the different types of risky play that have evolved over time.
What is Risky Play?
“Risky play is thrilling and exciting forms of play that involve a risk of physical injury. It primarily takes place outdoors, often as challenging and adventurous physical activities, children attempting something they have never done before, skirting the borderline of the feeling of being out of control (often because of height or speed) and overcoming fear” (Sandseter, 2009; Stephenson, 2003).
We asked six professionals in our Wide Bay community who work with children every day their thoughts on the topic and this is what they told us.
I believe that "risky" or explorative play is not only good it's essential in a child's development. Allowing your child to make mistakes, fail and take age-appropriate risks is how we, as parents, prepare them for the world. As adults we actively seek out danger and adventure in the forms of sky diving, fast cars, motorcycles, travelling abroad, quitting one job for another and many other physical and financial risks. What better way to learn how to tackle those future endeavours than to have a few adventures where a parent won't immediately bail them out? To sum up, the best quote I can think of is from Jordan B. Peterson "Question for parents: Do you want to make your child safe, or strong?"
Nathan Van der Klugt - Rhee Tae Kwon Do Bundaberg
Most children are competent and capable of assessing and managing risk, it is often the adult that can hinder this confidence and agency in children. Risky play is an impactful way to learn about consequences and problem solving and further develop their cognitive skills. This can also give a child a sense of empowerment and power as they are able to have the freedom to make their own choices in their play. Children who are provided with opportunity to assess and manage risk at an early age will be better equipped to navigate risk as an adult”
Jasmine Harris - Connections Play Therapy
Risky play is imperative for children to experience. This does not mean play which endangers a child's wellbeing, but play that will test their limits. Through taking risks while playing in a safe and supportive environment, children can experience a variety of emotions: thrill, fear, joy, excitement and pride. These opportunities encourage a growth mindset - can't do it YET and then to think creatively on how to achieve their goals through persistence and resilience. These characteristics created by risky play are important for a child's social-emotional and physical development.
Tonia Lassman - Head of St Lukes Primary School
I feel 'Risky Play' is a natural part of a child's play journey. It's important for their wellbeing, it allows them to explore the balance and boundaries between safety verses injury risk, and challenge verses solution. Children need and instinctively want to engage in risky play to test their abilities and strengths, master new skills, build resistance, motor skills and ignite creativity, curiosity and wonder.
Kara J Watson - Evolve Integrative Wellbeing
All Kids need an element of interactive activity when growing up, such as what our Slide & Playcentre offers, which encourages kids to problem solve, hone their balance and co-ordination plus socialise with other children whilst keeping them active. This is one of many activities such as Lasertag, Dodgem cars and Tenpin bowling and these are essential to all kid's development and growth”
Jeanette - Bundy Bowl & Leisure
Kids need to learn how to navigate risk, make mistakes and learn how to make decisions so supervised risky play can be a good thing
Carly Clark - Splitters Farm
There are many opportunities for your kids to experience Risky Play in the Wide Bay
Botanic Gardens playground & Park features a towering tunnel slide. To reach this pinnacle of play, children must first scale two sloping rock climbing platforms with a small gap between them. While the tower may provide parents with a few heart flutters, the challenge this section of the playground provides children is an important life building skills to develop.
Terra Tribe Farm Kids head outdoors, swap screens for survival skills, on school holidays at Terra Tribe Farm. Teaching kids about permaculture, nature and sustainability at its outdoor programs including Forest Kindy.
Lake Ellen playground: It’s not hard to spend a few hours at Lake Ellen Park. This large park has equipment catering for children of all ages and abilities. We love going here in the cooler months with friends. We set up a picnic rug in a sunny central position and let the kids go for it while we catch up. This park can be divided into three areas, the playgrounds, bike and scooter tracks and lake and walking tracks.
Boreham Park Playground is one of our favourite local parks to visit. It's a beautifully shaded park with lots and lots of space! There are 4 fantastic areas to the park, the water zone, the playgrounds, the mini bmx tracks and the open spaced areas. This park is fantastic for kids and adults of all ages with something to suit everyone and is very popular with us locals after school and on weekends.
Gymfinity Gymnastics The children's classes at Gymfinity range from toddlers to teens. Their under 5 classes offer parent support classes for 2-3 year olds and independent classes for 3.5 years and upwards. The classes allow kids to develop their neurological and physical abilities with structured rolling, jumping, swinging. The obstacles in classes are created to help children develop strength and spacial awareness, fine motor skills and encourage imagination and excitement.
Schuhkraft Park & Playground Bargara consists of a large low ropes course. Fabulous for fostering strength building and climbing skills in kids and adults. Not really suitable for under 2’s although they could play in the sand on the outer edge of the playground. A small permanent exercise station is in place. A great field including soccer nets can also be found.
Christsen Park & Playground Bargara includes equipment to suite all age levels from a little cafe, tiny slide and swings for the younger kids to a large low rope course for the bigger kids. The Playground is well spaced out with kids easy to spot from most vantage points and is surrounded by lush picnic areas.
Bundy Bowl and Leisure Centre has so many great activities including Ten Pin Bowling, Wild Wild West Shootout Gallery, Dodgem car rides, Laser Tag, Giant Slide and Maze, Under 5 Zone, Arcade Games and Glow in the dark Dinosaur Putt Putt
What the academic theoretical experts say;
It is during this stage your children test the boundaries of what is possible. They are navigating through their environment through play, it is their way of exploring challenges and this is considered a normal part of a child’s development. Specifically, feeling fear is a necessary part of growing up, it is an important part of handling real-life risky situations, which aids survival institics later in life. Apter (2007)
Often as parents or carers for young children we pose our own fears onto our children, we fear they may be harmed. We wish to protect them against risk factors and therefore, reduce risky play opportunities. However, the mostly harmless injuries that may result in risky play is outweighed by the increase in fearful children and high levels of anxiety (Allen and Rapee, 2005).
The experts say the modern environment does not adequately stimulate risky play opportunities and this may be seen in delayed developmental milestones and anxiety. The experts say we should consider how anxiety demotivates children from partaking in too risky behaviours, while at the same time through thrilling play experiences motivates children to continuously challenge themselves and develop age relevant skill sets as they mature. (Sandseter & Kennair 2011).
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about Risky Play Behaviours in your Wide Bay Kids.