The benefits of risky play in childcare

Children can develop to their full potential in a safe and familiar (play) environment. We want the best for our children. But sometimes we still intervene too often and too quickly when a child finds itself in a risky situation. At Big Ben kids, children are encouraged to learn and develop from risky play.

It’s good for children to romp around, climb high, run and bump into each other, in a playful way. Sometimes this results in a bump or a graze. Risky play is play that is exciting and challenging. Although there is a chance of falling and / or hurting oneself, it also creates the opportunity for very valuable positive experiences.

Examples of risky play

We can, for example, let children play with height consciously; where there is a chance that they may fall down. This includes not only climbing but also balancing, jumping, hanging and swinging. Pull and push games (frolics) also fall under risky play. Romping around, wrestling and tug of war are examples where children playfully learn their own and each other’s limits by pulling and pushing.

Playing with impact refers to play in which children collide, fall or sprint and experience the effect of this. In this way, they learn about their own bodies, their limits and those of others. Another form of risky play is games in which children play on unfamiliar, self-made, unfenced, hard or slippery surfaces. This enlarges the playing world of children.

Did you know that even if a child does not take up the challenge but only watches another, the child is still playing riskily? By watching others doing something exciting or risky, children also experience a thrill.

What is the added value of risky play?

Through risky play, children acquire different skills. Research shows that children who learn to deal with danger and risky situations are better at estimating risks than other children. Children make better (and therefore safer) choices in a dangerous situation.

In addition, it contributes to increasing the self-confidence of children; they dare to face challenges more easily. Children are less likely to avoid challenges and they are more likely to be seen as something fun, increasing their perseverance and independence.

Children who play risky games are more secure, have more social skills and are better able to solve conflicts with their peers. Risky play also contributes to the physical development of children. Risky play makes a child physically active by, for example, climbing, rolling, swinging, hanging, sliding and so on. This is good for motor skills, balance, coordination and body awareness.

Balance between safety and challenge

There must be a good balance between safety and challenge. Of course, providing safety is important, but the need for children to be stimulated, pushed and encouraged to take risks is just as great as the need for stability and safety. In childcare, an “as safe as possible” approach is often adopted in which safety is seen as a priority. A different approach is needed in childcare, in which we see the challenges for children as a regular part of the programme and do not take this away from providing safety.

This approach would be a “safe as needed” approach, where there is a balance between safety and the challenges offered to children. A challenge-based approach ultimately leads to a safer environment for children. Research shows that it is more dangerous to overprotect children than to let them play “risky”. Children need to learn to deal with risks in order to assess them correctly and learn to know their limits.

To help children do this, support can be offered during risky play. Supporting does not mean preventing a child from falling or hurting themselves. A child learns much more if they can discover and experience for themselves. Hurting oneself now and then is part of the game.

Big Ben Kids uses the “as safe as needed” approach, in which they challenge children in their development and allow them to play risky games. During this risky play, the childcare practitioners are in the presence of the game and support the children where necessary.

This article is published in cooperation with our partner

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