Encouraging Risk Taking in Outdoor Play

During children’s developmental years, it’s good to encourage risk taking in outdoor play. Allowing them to take certain risks can help with developing motor skills as well as boosting their confidence.

Of course, you don’t want to put them in any real danger, but providing activities where kids can safely take risks has many benefits. Schools are often overly concerned with health and safety, but this can end up having a negative effect on children’s development if it’s excessive. Have a look at some of the best primary school play equipment to get some ideas for your outdoor space.

Benefits of Risky Play

In both Early Years Foundation Stage and primary school, there are many benefits of risky play both physically and mentally. Of course, pupils should always be supervised in any potentially dangerous situations but giving them the freedom to take risks is necessary.

  • Self-assessing risks – It’s important for children to be able to work out whether something is safe or potentially dangerous. Kids who can do this usually experience fewer accidents and injuries.
  • Teaches problem-solving – A child may need to avoid a possible hazard and learning how to do this through play is very effective.
  • Learning respect for danger – Children should learn about situations or objects which could cause them harm and know how to avoid them.
  • Boosting confidence – If a child is able to traverse a tricky climbing frame or playground obstacle course, this can give them a sense of achievement and help them feel more confident.

All of these are important skills to learn from a young age as they can reduce the amount of accidents that happen on the playground or in other areas. If children can become more aware of their surroundings and their own safety, they are more likely to correctly assess dangerous situations.

Risk Taking Playground Equipment

Examples of Play with Risk

Here are a few examples of activities which could be deemed as risky play for Early Years and primary school pupils:

  • Heights – Climbing trees or playground equipment creates a sense of accomplishment.
  • Hiding or being lost – Playing games like hide and seek gives the feeling of being separated without any actual danger.
  • Fast speeds – Slides, swings and roundabouts on the playground can give the thrilling feeling of speed.
  • Hazardous elements – This could be a large body of water or a fire, with close supervision children can find these very exciting.

These things can all be incorporated when encouraging risk taking in outdoor play, either in or outside of school. Have a look at this post to learn more about the kinds of activities which might be included.

Creating a Playground for Taking Risks

When designing a playground for your school or nursery, you’ll obviously want to make sure it’s safe for the children to use. Safety should be the main priority for any play area in order to reduce the risk of injuries. You can add elements of controlled risk safely using a range of equipment. Have a look at this page to find out more about the different nursery playground designs we offer.

Outside of school, forests with trees, plants and streams are ideal places for children to explore with supervision. On the playground, things like climbing frames and trim trails are great for offering risk taking activities which pupils can try at their own pace.

School Playground Risky Play Activities

Trim trails can incorporate many items including monkey bars, balance beams, rope bridges and stepping logs which all boost motor skills. These pieces of equipment all have slight elements of risk and require a bit of skill to get across them. Installing trim trails can benefit physical development in children as they are climbing, balancing and jumping to get around the course.

Risk Assessment for Playgrounds

When carrying out a risk assessment for playgrounds, it’s vital to check that all equipment and surfacing meet the required safety accreditations. However, you also need to make sure that you are not being overly conscious of health and safety in a way that restricts children’s play time. For example, if it’s wet outside, they should wear a coat and equipment can be wiped down and still used.

If you do have climbing equipment in the play area, we can install safety surfacing to help reduce the impact if someone falls. There are plenty of ways to encourage taking risks in your play area while still protecting children from serious injuries.

Give Children the Freedom to Explore

A key thing to remember with this type of play is to trust the children and let them explore their own boundaries. They know themselves what kind of risks and activities they are ready for. One child may find something really exciting while it might be too scary for another. It’s good to encourage them to get out of their comfort zone, but be aware that everyone develops and learns differently. You could also encourage different types of cooperative play to help children learn how to work together.

There is a fine line between pushing a child to take risks they are not ready for, and encouraging them to embrace new adventures. If you find the right balance by encouraging risk-taking in outdoor play, you give them the perfect learning environment at school or nursery.


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