What is risky play?

Risky play is defined as thrilling and challenging forms of play that involve a risk of physical injury.                                                                                                                                                                                             (Sandseter, 2007)

This play often takes part outdoors and can be put into categories that help describe how a child might engage in this kind of play. The categories are: play in great heights; play at high speeds; play with dangerous tools;play near dangerous elements; rough and tumble play;and play where children can disappear and get lost.

Think about how your children like to play. Now before you put a stop to it, here are some benefits to consider.


What are the benefits?


  • Promotes independence, creativity, problem-solving
  • Direct experience of the consequences of actions
  • Developing control and coordination of their bodies
  • Boosts emotional resilience, self-confidence
  • Reduces stress, promotes self-regulation
  • Satisfies children’s need for challenge and thrill
  • Demonstrates courage and physical skills to peers
  • Reduces fears, increases positive feelings of joy


It may be challenging at times to find the balance between allowing your child to explore and take risks while playing, and avoiding getting seriously hurt or injured. Children need many opportunities to play in a variety of challenging environments to support their risk management. Interestingly, too much emphasis on safety can put children at greater risk because they have not practiced risk management. We can help children learn to manage risky situations by supporting, supervising, and addressing harmful dangerous equipment and materials.


In children’s risky play, we must always consider the risks against the developmental benefits. (Ball, 2002)



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