Outdoor Risky Play

Outdoor Risky Play

Outdoor Risky Play

Date posted: January 8, 2021

Access to active play and outdoors – and its risks – is essential for healthy child development. – Outdoor Play Canada

What is risky play?

Risky play happens when children intentionally test themselves physically and see what happens.

There are different types of risky play, including:

  • Climbing a tree (play at heights)
  • Riding a bike fast (play at speed)
  • Using a hammer (play with dangerous tools)
  • Playing by a river (play near dangerous elements)
  • Roaming the neighbourhood (play with a chance of getting lost)
  • Play wrestling (rough and tumble play)

Risky play will look different for different children, depending on their capabilities and comfort level.

What’s important is to give children the opportunity to be able to figure out for themselves what they want to do and how far they want to push themselves. – Outsideplay.ca

How does outdoor risky play help children?

Risky play can help children:

  • Test their limits
  • Build physical strength and endurance
  • Develop confidence
  • Enjoy independence
  • Learn to manage risks safely
  • Work cooperatively
  • Build spatial awareness
  • Understand the properties of materials


What is the adult’s role in outdoor risky play?

The role of adults to offer permission, time, materials and space is described in a colourful infographic created by South Shore Active Communities. It also outlines strategies, including the lifeguard approach, that support children in risky play while protecting them from hazards.

How can I learn more about outdoor risky play?

Here are some good places to start:

Visit outsideplay.ca for an interactive tool to help parents, caregivers and early childhood educators develop confidence and skills to support children’s outdoor risky play. Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions and links to resources. Download a great infographic and posters.

Read Outdoor risky play, a chapter in OECD’s Education in the Digital Age: Healthy and Happy Children.

Read Outdoor Risky Play in the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

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