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Risky Play

Risky play has so many benefits to our children’s learning & development. When you think back to your favourite childhood play experiences, chances are they took place outdoors, unsupervised & while hanging out with friends. Today’s kids spend far less time playing than we did, or our own parents did.

Risky play involves kids experimenting & pushing themselves to figure out what will happen, without knowing the exact outcome. If kids don’t go far enough with their play, it’s boring & if they go too far, it gets scary. Kids use risky play kind of like a science experiment, they are testing out their environment & determining what they’re comfortable with.

On top of this, studies show that engaging in risky play actually REDUCES a child’s risk of injury. This makes sense. The more experience a child has navigating risky scenarios, the better practiced they are at avoiding making mistakes. By stopping our children from engaging in risky play because “something could happen!” we are essentially clipping their wings & then crying out in surprise when they fall.


  • Confidence

  • Independence

  • Problem solving

  • Curiosity

  • Resilience

  • Persistence

  • Coordination & Balance

  • Understanding the consequences of their actions

  • Awareness of their own strengths & limitations

  • The ability to assess & make judgements about risk


  • Offering help only when necessary.

  • Acknowledge challenges & celebrate our child’s successes.

  • Use encouraging words of support to your child when challenging themselves in their environment.

  • Closely supervising & observing our children so that we are aware of their physical abilities & play choices.

  • Being physically close enough to step in at a moment’s notice if our children fall.

  • Using our own judgement to assess the “risk versus reward” of what our child is doing.

  • Being conscious of our own anxiety & trying not to transfer that to the child.

What were some of your favourite “risky play” activities to engage in as a child? Let us know in the comments below.

References: Brussoni et al 2017; Lancy 2016; Marlowe 2010; Zelizer 1985

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