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Muddy Faces

Risky play tips & gallery

Inspiration & tips shared by outdoor practitioners and parents enjoying risky play in their settings.

In July 2020 we ran a competition asking for risky play tips and photos to go onto our Outdoor Practitioner magazine Risky Play issue. Even after the competition had closed people still generously shared their tips and pics - because they know the importance of risky play and the benefits to children's' development - and wanted to inspire others to bring it into their work and play too.

In some places we've added comments by Muddy Faces outdoor play experts to say what we think the pics are showing.

Outdoor Hub

Tips for risky play with children

1) Allow them to decide what risks they’re going to take, they’ll always surprise you.

2) Don’t help them, you will often hear me say “if you can’t climb the tree, it’s not your tree to climb!” Encourage and coach, but do not physically help. (Except for tool work…)

3) Tool work especially with early years is always collaborative, but do it in a way they don’t realise you’re helping. Try not to put your hands over their hands unless absolutely necessary, as then they still feel in control of the tool.

4) Allow mistakes to happen, they need to work out the consequences of wrong decisions, and then how to avoid the wrong decision next time.

5) Take risks in front of them, I am often found doing “dangerous” things, and get told by my little friends to be careful!

Tips from Paul Lewis, The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford

Paul Lewis, The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford_PL6

Vestibular development

Engaging in risky play often means children move into different, often difficult, positions that normal play may not allow them to encounter. This encourages vestibular development, contributing to the development of balance, equilibrium, postural control, muscle tone, maintaining a stable visual field while you are moving, and bilateral coordination.

Image from Paul Lewis The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford

Paul Lewis, The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford_PL14

Tools

Using tools allows children to participate in real life experiences, bringing a range of benefits for children's development and learning. Children remain focused, concentrating for sustained periods of time.

Image from Paul Lewis The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford

Paul Lewis, The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford_PL11

Communication

Children often support, encourage and challenge each other during risky play. The support required is real - if someone is struggling then words or hands-on can guide them to a safe spot.

Image from Paul Lewis The Children’s Garden Day Nursery, Stamford

Samantha Aumonie @homeplaylearn_SA3

Choosing the hard way

When playing we often choose the most challenging root pushing our bodies physically and our minds to overcome the challenge and to find a satisfying sense of achievement. For many this continues into adult life as well.

Image from Samantha Aumonie @homeplaylearn

Samantha Aumonie @homeplaylearn_SA1

In the moment

Each step is challenging, undulating, maybe moving - a lot of risk assessment needs to happen with each step - how much movement of a log is too much? When do I stop, reassess, make a choice?

Image from Samantha Aumonie @homeplaylearn

Samantha Aumonie @homeplaylearn_SA4

Focus

Concentration, determination, strength, will power. What is not to like about this risky play?!

Image from Samantha Aumonie @homeplaylearn

Outdoor cleghorn

Eight, six and 18 months ... each one approaching risk at their level."

Top tip

A wise person once said, be careful not to be careful and I'd add, be careful not to say "be careful" without being explicit about what they're supposed to be being careful about!”

Image & tip from Alex Cleghorn OutdoorAlex

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