- Researchers link risky play for children with sound mental and physical health.
- They recommend inculcating risky play in early childhood education.
What Is Risky Play?
Risky play is a form of physical activity play in which people test their physical limits in unstructured outdoor play. Also known as “free play” or “thrilling play” or “adventurous play”, according to a 2012 study, it involves:
- Dangerous tools
- Dangerous elements, etc.
What Is Risky Play In Childcare?
Risky play for children involves their experimenting with outdoor free play and safely pushing their physical and mental limitations to achieve unknown outcomes. While it may seem that risky play carries with it the chances of physical injury—risky play is simply innovative adventurous play in “versatile natural environments”.
Why Is Risky Play Important To Child Development?
The benefits of risky play are closely intertwined with sound physical and mental health in children. For instance, studies associate risky play for toddlers with:
- Increased motor fitness and abilities
- Greater environmental awareness
- Better navigation competencies
- Enhanced creativity
- Better emotional regulation
- Building team spirit and meaningful peer relationships
- Sound personality development (including self-worth, efficacy, self-control, etc.)
- Finer social skills (like decision-making, problem-solving, etc.)
- Fewer ‘internalizing symptoms’ of depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, etc.
Declining Opportunities For Risky Play For Children
Child experts contend that children’s over-scheduled lives and social media use have limited their opportunities for outdoor free play. With everything ‘structured’ and ‘laid out’, they are losing out on the benefits of risky play.
Inculcating Risky Play In Early Childhood Education
Researchers have stressed on the importance of inculcating risky play in early childhood education. Consequently, they are devising forward-thinking designs to inculcate risky play in the natural environment in early childhood education.
They are also enthusiastic about including adventure therapy and risky play in classroom pedagogies and school-based interventions to ensure better mental health in children. This would not only lead to more balanced academic schedules for children but also tilt the scales in favor of spending time outdoors and adventurous play.
Dr. Helen Dodd, a Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Exeter, said: “We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural spaces, well-designed parks, and adventure playgrounds—to support the mental health of our children.”