In my day, there was no risky play. Play was PLAY! Well, okay, maybe there was inside vs outside play or quiet vs noisy play, but none of this safe vs risky play. Scrapes, bruises, the occasional broken bone were taken in-stride and accepted as just part of Life for a growing child.
Oh did Dylan have it right! Sometime after the 60s, when it came to children’s PLAY, the times were a-changing!
Children naturally want to test their limits. Unfortunately that natural inclination has too often been stymied by
● over-protective parents
● rules-bound schools and a
● litigious society
Keeping children ‘safe’ is to the detriment of their overall development! The real problem isn’t children and risky play, but parents’ fear of their children risking.
RISK is at the heart of all learning or growing. There cannot be one without the other!
Risky play is primarily concerned with the potential physical injury children may receive. However, we know PLAY addresses ALL areas of development. So here are 4 reasons WHY parents need to overcome their fear and let children engage in the kind of age-appropriate risk PLAY provides!
4 Reasons for Risky PLAY:
1. When children are allowed to move and use their bodies by
◦ hanging upside down
◦ jumping and leaping
◦ running or racing
it all contributes towards toning their muscles, improving their coordination, and developing their proprioception and vestibular systems. Children develop an accurate assessment of their capabilities and learn to stay within them.
2. When children are given the freedom to show the full range of their emotions in PLAY they learn self-regulation skills.
PLAY provides a safe space to explore feelings. For example, sensory tubs, filled with sand or water, are great ways for children to express their feelings. Pretend PLAY using dress-up clothes or giving voice to puppets helps children learn to manage their feelings in an appropriate way. These can lay the groundwork towards the emotional flexibility and emotional resilience adults need. Children learn through PLAY feelings are feelings; it’s how they act upon those feelings that can have consequences!
3. When groups of children are engaged in PLAY, the POWER of PLAY becomes evident. Children learn from each other:
◦ imitating and
this provides ample opportunities for children to practice their social skills! In PLAY, they learn how to be and make friends; to listen, to understand social cues, initiate conversations, to share, work together and resolve conflicts. PLAY fosters all these important social skills!
Humans are social creatures. Children regulate each other’s behavior. Your child’s future success is very dependent on their social skills and ability to make friends.
4. Outdoor PLAY, especially, helps children enhance their problem-solving and decision-making skills. It gives them 1st hand experience in understanding spatial awareness. When children PLAY in Mother Nature they improve their observational skills and naturally learn scientific concepts. Children make use of their senses in and through PLAY to learn about the world around them and how they fit in it.
When children PLAY they develop, grow and learn:
● SOCIALLY and
PLAY and learning go hand-in-hand! In fact, when children PLAY they usually grow and develop in more than one domain; in other words, the learning is inter-related.
PLAY Scenario & Learning:
Your kidlet and their friends concoct a game. To PLAY, they must run up and down a hill based on a color they’re wearing and starting on the count of 5 .
Can you guess at some of the learning going on in each of the developmental domains?
● The physical domain’s probably the most obvious. One aspect they’ll be working on is developing their gross motor skills.
● This activity also contributes towards their emotional (health and) development by serving as an excellent outlet to destress!
● The social domain is another fairly evident area. Children must cooperation and have good communication skills for the team to work together to create the game.
● IMHO, there’s no time a child isn’t developing in the cognitive domain. For this game, they need to recognize colors; be able to count; and understand commands. Perhaps they’ll:
◦ Learn new color names
◦ Experience the difference in the effort required to run uphill vs downhill
◦ Notice the coordinated motion of arms and legs
◦ Hear and feel different the effect of different surfaces
◦ Be aware of the rate of their breathing
Risk isn’t bad, it’s a fact of Life. So relax and use PLAY to help children become capable, competent, and confident as they navigate through Life’s ups and downs. Don’t let your fear inhibit what your child can become!
Yours in Play!