Today’s kids spend far less time playing outdoors than their parents did. A professor at the University of British Columbia has spent some extensive years researching the concept of ‘Risky Play’. According to her, Risky Play is a “thrilling and exciting play where children engage in risk without any certainty.” Did you know about this at all? It has been proven to have innumerable benefits.
WHAT IS RISKY PLAY?
Think of this, you witness your kids playing in the garden or playground laughing, squeaking - basically, just having fun. But while they’re playing, you also tend to give directives like ‘Slow down, you will get hurt’, or ‘Be careful’, ‘Don’t do that’. You as a parent want to stop the risky behavior. But is that always the best reaction?
Risky Play involves kids experimenting and playing to figure out what will happen, without knowing about the exact outcome.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF RISKY PLAY?
Risky play can be subjective. Here are some categories of Risky Play, as suggested by experts & researchers:
- Play at Great Heights – Hanging from monkey bars, climbing and balancing.
- Play Rough and Tumble – Wrestling or pretend/play fighting.
- Lost/Disappear – Hide-and-seek in the garden.
- Overcoming Obstacles – Creating a set-up for your child so they can run, jump and freely move while overcoming obstacles in the way.
Disclaimer: All of the above-mentioned activities of risky play should be developmentally appropriate and supervised.
HOW CAN YOU INVOLVE YOUR KIDS IN RISKY PLAY?
Experts suggest that parents should involve their kids in Risky Play, by keeping the following in mind:
- Setting a dedicated time aside for regular outdoor play
- Keeping the environment of play ‘as safe as necessary’ and NOT ‘as safe as possible’
- Provide guidance, every time you are traveling/commuting with your kid anywhere so they are aware of the potential dangers on their way
- Encouraging your child to indulge in a new activity that he/she has never tried before
- Overcoming parental fears and inhibitions of letting the child play in a risky environment
- Using a directive like, “do you feel safe?”, “how high do you want to go?”, instead of “that’s not safe” or “that’s very high”.
- Assess how your child is reacting to the situation when you’re not getting in the way. This gives them the opportunity for them to figure it out by themselves
BENEFITS OF RISKY PLAY
The benefits of risky play do not imply that your child will run better than another child, but it involves REAL developmental benefits as below:
- Improvement of self-confidence, social development, and physical activity
- The ability of kids to learn more about themselves and their limits
- Learning about the concept of risk/safety language and helping others stay safe in risky circumstances
- Understanding the meaning of safety
- Learning resilience
- An increase in creativity
- Learning to handle stressful situations and anxiety
Incorporating “Risky Play” naturally creates more anxiety in the parent/caregiver than the child, but it is a crucial element of early development. Granting the freedom of taking developmentally-appropriate risks to your child can in reality help them stay safe, as they learn how to safely navigate their environment.