Risk is an important part of children’s play. Allowing children to take risks develops their self-confidence, to plan, to solve problems, to engage their creativity, to be challenged and to use judgment. All of these skills are critical for children’s growth in social – emotional, executive functioning and cognitive skills.
Risk can include gross motor activities such as climbing on a jungle gym, using shovels in a dirt pile, building with large tree stumps or sensory activities such as touching the gooey insides of a pumpkin, walking in paint, or playing in the mud. It also includes allowing children to create using real tools such a hammer and nails, maybe even building a bridge to cross the creek to explore the other side!
The teacher is the guide who provides an environment in which safe risk can occur, monitors children’s efforts and allows the child to do the work instead of stepping with a “That’s not safe.” Yes, we need to manage the risk; we stay close but we allow the child to experience that joy of accomplishment or be able to determine how to do it differently the next time. “Risk-taking is an essential part of children’s play. Managing that risk is the key to providing opportunities that support growth and development and keep children safe from unreasonable risk and injury. The balancing of these two is vital for our children’s health and development. (Allen and Rapee, 2005 cited in Sanseter, E. and Kennair, L. 2011) We need to remember that clothes, hands and feet can be washed, bumps and bruises are a part of growing and risk taking allows children to build resiliency, persistence, proprioceptive skills, confidence, independence, wonder and curiosity.
In what ways do you encourage children to take risks to become problem-solvers, inventors, and resourceful individuals in your classroom?
Great resource for further information on the benefits of risk: