18 April 2022

Why is playing risky good for children’s development?

As a parent, grandparent, or teacher, you want to always protect children from everything. But as the child grows older and develops physically as well as mentally, it is important to give them the space to explore independently and learn to deal with risks. By letting children play risky, you stimulate their development. In this article we will give you tips on how to let children play in a challenging, but of course in a safe way.


What is risky play?

Risky play is doing exciting, challenging, and adventurous activities where there is a risk of minor injuries. Think, for example, of a scrape or a bump. Playing risky is different from playing dangerous. When playing dangerously, there is a direct threat, and the child is out of control. 


Why is risk playing important?

Risky play is good for the development of children. Are you interested in learning more about children’s development? Read our article about Mirrors stimulate children’s development.  

When playing at risk, children learn where his or her limit lies at that moment. Through trial and error, the child learns what it can and cannot do. By offering activities in the ‘zone of proximal development’, you give the child challenges and opportunities to learn new things. By activities that take place in the zone of proximal development, we mean activities that lie between two levels: the level of current development and that of proximate or near development. These are activities that children are not yet able to do independently. By offering the right, minimal help, and guidance, learning moments are created and the child rises above itself. Besides the fact that risky play is educational, it is also a lot of fun.  


Benefits of Risky Play

By having children assess risks from an early age, you can prevent injury. When playing at risk, the child learns to push his or her limits. This makes them more skilled, more self-assured, more self-reliant, and more sociable. The child also learns to overcome fears and develops perseverance. By making estimation errors, children learn what works and what does not, and therefore they are able to can make more conscious choices in the future. 


Examples of risky play

Here we will give you a few examples of how differently risky play can be done.  


  • Pull and push games 

By playfully pulling and pushing, children learn more about their own limits. Think of wrestling or playing with sticks. 


  • Playing at height 

When playing at height there is a chance that the child might fall. Examples of this are balancing, jumping, swinging, and hanging from the climbing frame. 


  • Playing with dangerous objects 

By playing with dangerous objects, children learn to handle sharp, heavy, hot, or hard objects and materials. For example, you can instruct children up to 4 years of age to cut with sharp scissors. Older children can sharpen branches, build a hut with tools, or play darts with real darts. 


  • Playing with speed 

When playing at speed, the child accelerates his or her body with an aid. This can be done in many ways like running, swinging, or cycling on a balance bike or tricycle. Children from 4 years old can run down a hill, skate, cycle, scooter, or skate. 


  • Playing in risky places 

By letting your child play in unfamiliar, unfenced, or hard, slippery, or hot places like near water, fire, snow, ice or in a forest. 


Tips on how to let children play challenging but safe

  • Encourage the child to do and explore new things. Try to keep your distance and only intervene if there is real danger.  
  • Let children practice in a quiet place first. In this way it gradually gains more self-confidence. 
  • Watch and listen carefully to the child and follow your gut feelings when determining what risk, you consider acceptable. Try to explain to the child why something is or is not allowed by naming the risks. 
  • Does it ever go wrong? Then help the child and encourage him or her to do it again. Remember, pushing is pointless.