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Risky Play in Early Childhood

When trying to decide what my first (first for my new website that is) blog post should be about, I bounced back and forth on topics about me, my life and who I am. But here’s the thing, it just wasn’t sitting right. I mean you can literally click up there ^ and learn all about me on the ABOUT page. So I decided to head in a different direction and talk all about PLAY; Risky play to be exact. For the second year in a row, I am hosting my Get Outside and Play Challenge, as a way to motivate parents to get their children outside and play every day! I won’t go into detail on the challenge right now (you can learn more about it on my Instagram feed) but I will tell you all about why Risky Play is so important in early childhood.

In today’s world, it is more important than ever for our children to get outside and play.

Not only do we need to encourage more nature play in today’s children but in particular, Risky Play.

We’ve all heard of the phrase before but what is risky play and why is it so important?

 Risky Play can lightly be defined as engaging in exciting play that involves a risk of physical injury.

 I know this doesn’t sound great but I prefer to look at it this way:

 It’s about allowing your child to take risks in an environment that you have deemed as “safe enough” instead of “safe as possible”.

That’s the key phrase I want you to remember “SAFE ENOUGH”. Let’s get “safe as possible” out of our minds and focus on letting go a little.

 So, why is this important?

 The short and simple answer is that children need to take risks while they are young to learn how to make good choices, later in life, when taking risks.

 As I said, that is the short and simple answer but there is actually much more to it.

 Taking part in regular outdoor risky play actually reduces your child’s risk of injury.

That’s right, taking part in play that has the added risk of injury, actually helps keep your child safe and here’s why:

The more experiences your child has with nature, climbing, jumping, running, hiking, you name it, the more opportunities you are giving them to use their judgement. They learn from their mistakes, build their confidence and most importantly, they learn about their limits and how to push them safely.  In the end, they are learning to take risks safely, making them more capable and confident.

 Not to mention the many benefits risky play provides for child development including promoting brain development, logic, problem-solving skills, gross-motor development and mental health.

Although I do mainly recommend risky play as an outdoor activity, you can still partake in risky play inside. I encourage getting outside to play in particular because the sensory experience that nature provides children cannot be equalled. Getting outside to play, every day is an essential part of child development that many children are missing these days. 

I cannot stress this enough. Get them outside. Let them touch, feel, smell and climb. Every day!

So what does risky play look like?

I broke down some examples by age but remember it’s all about your child taking risks in an environment that you have accessed for safety and deemed as safe enough.

1 year:

Depending on how active your child is and if they are walking, risky play for the young toddler can be as simple as crawling up a grassy hill, to running down that same hill. It may be crawling over a log or climbing up the stairs.

18 Months:

Risky play is starting to look more like you expect it to. Climbing on a play structure, going down a slide unassisted, running down a grassy hill or climbing on rocks are all great examples.

2 years:

Once children reach their second year, risky play may look like riding a balance bike, climbing the playground ladders, climbing small trees, riding a scooter and jumping in muddy puddles.

3 years to 5 years:

This is when the activities start to include some real risk.  Climbing trees, hiking, biking, climbing rocks walls, rolling down hills, swinging on a rope, introducing the use of real tools, swimming and wrestling.

The opportunities are truly endless.

What is important for us to remember is that we need to make sure our children are getting outside to play EVERY DAY.

Encourage them to get dirty, explore and test their limits. Their future selves will thank you.

This is just the tip of the risky play iceberg. If you want to learn more about Risky Play, Follow me on Instagram at @evolvemontessori and make sure to join the Evolve Montessori Play Challenge!

~ Momma Montessori AKA Jenna