Why you should let your child get some risky play in their day

Ever found yourself hovering when your child starts to climb a tree? What about telling them “be careful!” when they’re balancing on a low wall?

These are examples of us adults letting our own fears get in the way of a child’s play. Risky play is actually super important for a child’s development – it helps to develop self-confidence, resilience, executive functioning abilities and risk-management skills (along with lots of other skills)!

Risky play might include:

  • Heights – climbing trees and playgrounds to a scary height

  • Rough and tumble – being chased by a trusted person, wrestling with siblings or parents

  • Going fast – on their bike, swing, scooter or in a boat

  • Going missing – games such as hide and seek help with experiencing the temporary yet scary separation from their caregivers

How can you provide more opportunities for risky play?

  • Let kids climb, jump and explore their capabilities

  • Use that slide to go up instead of down – climbing the playground in unconventional ways can be risky too

  • Encourage the kids to help out in the kitchen with food that’s hot, or with cutting up food

  • Use hammers, chunks of wood and nails to develop their “inner tradie” – don’t forget the girls can be tradies too!

Remember – supervision is everything. We aren’t recommending that you let your small human loose in the shed with the power tools! Instead, point out potential risks so that they can develop their own knowledge of how to stay safe.

P.S. “Be careful” can go from your vocabulary too! What does “be careful” even mean to a toddler or young child? Try commenting on their actions and environment instead. This might look like:

  • “Wow you’re up so high!”

  • “I love how you’re balancing on that!”

  • “Oo that looks like it might be sharp”

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