The Benefits of Risky Play
One of the most important aspects of parenting is keeping your child safe from harm. But a little bit of risk is actually beneficial for your child's development. Though the idea of "risky play" seems counterintuitive, it's actually a great way for your child to learn critical thinking skills!
What is risky play?
Risky play is any activity that allows your child to experience some level of risk. This can include things like playing in the rain, climbing trees, and riding their bikes. This play offers thrill and excitement and invites children to test their limits and expand their comfort zones. At an age when their brains are making new connections every day, navigating and assessing risk is a great skill to incorporate early.
Risky play is important for young children because it helps them learn about risks and consequences and helps them develop their problem-solving skills, self-confidence, and creativity.
It's important to note that not all risk is good risk! A safe environment where your child never experiences any risk would be very limiting for their development, but it's important to step in before they're in actual danger.
Why is risky play important for child development?
The benefits of risky play for children go beyond just teaching them how to handle risks responsibly. Risky play actually helps children learn key skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and persistence.
Risky play helps children learn about their environment and the risks that are associated with it. It also helps them develop problem-solving skills and a sense of confidence. In addition, risky play can lead to the development of creativity and new ideas. They learn how to take care of themselves and manage their own emotions, as well as how to cooperate with others.
Example of risky play: Playing in the rain
When it's rainy outside, you might find yourself arguing with your child about putting on their boots or a raincoat. Letting them go play as they desire is a great way for them to learn the natural consequences you already know as an adult - soggy socks and clothes, and feeling chilly.
When your child is playing in the rain, they are having fun at first, but soon they also learn how water can cause them discomfort. Naturally, they'll start to think about how to avoid getting wet, which gives you a great way to bring up their boots and raincoat the next time they want to play. They'll learn how to avoid that negative consequence, but it sticks better after experiencing it rather than being told! This type of learning is critical for your child's development because it teaches them how to think critically and solve problems.
Your child may also use this risky play to start overcoming their fears of rain or water. This kind of confidence building can help build a strong foundation for later life.
How can you incorporate risk into your child's play?
There is no one perfect way to incorporate risk into your child's play. Introducing them to new situations and settings, like a park or local hiking trail, can be a great way to let them explore. According to Outside Play, there are multiple types of risky play: play at heights, play at speed, play with dangerous tools, play with dangerous elements, play with a chance of getting lost, and rough and tumble play.
To incorporate play at heights, your child may enjoy climbing trees, playground equipment, or large rocks on the nature trail. You can also play at heights on a swing set by pushing them higher!
To play at speed, your child might ride their bike down a hill at fast speeds, or you could spin them on playground equipment.
Play with dangerous tools could include using a hammer or saw (if age appropriate), or using a knife to chop veggies with you in the kitchen. Always supervise play with tools!
Play with dangerous elements includes fire or water. We already discussed playing in the rain, but swimming lessons could also be a great risky play option, with a trained instructor and a lifeguard of course. We also recently talked about fire in our fire safety lessons, so your child might feel ready to help build a campfire or help you cook on a gas stove.
Play with a chance of getting lost doesn't have to mean that children can roam the neighborhood without an adult - kids get the benefit of this "risk" even if their parents can see them hiding and pretending to be lost. A robust game of hide-and-seek is a great way to get children used to being "lost" and exploring the emotions that come with the territory.
Rough and tumble play is just what it sounds like. Children often play-fight and wrestle, which engages their need for risky play and helps them gain a sense of their body's balance.
Risky play tips for worried parents
The most important thing is to not panic! Remember when your child was learning to walk: falling and getting back up is a critical part of the process. If your child looks a bit stuck, they'll often find a way out of their predicament on their own with a little critical thinking. Pause for a moment (or a few moments) before intervening to give your child a chance to problem solve.
Be sure to talk about safety and risk with your child in an age-appropriate way, and encourage them to take risks in a safe and responsible way. For example, if you notice a potential danger (say, a rose bush with sharp thorns), you can look at the bush together and ask them what they think it would take to stay safe near it.
5 Expert Fire Safety Tips for Kids
In October, the local Fire Department visited Heights Cooperative Preschool for National Fire Prevention Week. Learning about fire safety is so important to start early, so kids know from a young age how to handle the dangers of fire. This year also marks 100 years since Fire Prevention Week was made official!
Here's what we learned when the fire department visited our school.
1: Create a Family Fire Safety Plan
Create an emergency fire plan with your family and friends, including where you would go if you had to evacuate. Be prepared for an emergency by having a disaster plan in place, having enough supplies on hand, and practicing evacuation drills with your family.
Everyone in your home should know the fire safety plan, and children should be taught how to use the fire alarm and exit safely. Set up emergency contacts in case of an emergency so your kids know who to call for help.
Make your home fire escape plan and safety action plan using these guides from the National Fire Prevention Association.
2: Teach Your Kids Age-Appropriate Fire Safety
Talk to your kids about fire safety as often as possible, including when you use the stove or if you are making a fire outside. Make sure they know what to do if they see a fire, and be sure they know the locations of the exits in their home.
Make sure your kids know how to respond to a fire alarm and how to use the fire escape routes.
As your kids grow older, teach them how to use a fire extinguisher and involve them in replacing the batteries in smoke alarms every year so they are more engaged with your fire safety practices.
Visit Sparky.org for lots of online games and resources for your kids to learn about fire safety!
3: Store and Use Household Items Properly
Make sure all materials that could create a fire are stored in a safe place, such as candles out of reach of children and cigarettes out of sight.
Store flammable materials in cool, dry places and away from heat sources.
Follow these simple tips for safe fire safety:
4: Install Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Fire safety is not only about knowing the fire safety rules - it's also about having the proper tools to detect fires and emergencies. Install smoke detectors in each room of your home, and install a carbon monoxide detector in case of an emergency. Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly by testing them monthly and replacing the batteries every year.
Smoke from any kind of fire can be dangerous, especially when it's dense or contains chemicals. Make sure your kids know the dangers of smoke, and keep them away from any fires that are burning.
As the National Fire Prevention Association says, "Fire is dark!" Though the flames start off bright, soon fires become very dark and smoky. It's important to stay low to the ground so that you aren't breathing or trying to see through the dark smoke.
How many smoke alarms do you need? According to the NFPA, "Smoke alarms need to be in every bedroom, outside of the sleeping areas (like a hallway), and on each level (including the basement) of your home. Do not put smoke alarms in your kitchen or bathrooms."
5: Know the School's Fire Safety Plan
In addition to knowing your home's fire safety rules, it's important to know the school's fire safety plan. Our classrooms have plans in place to evacuate students in case of a fire. Make sure you know where your child is in case of an emergency, and be sure to talk to your child's teacher about their fire safety plan.
Fire safety is not a one-time event - it's something that needs to be practiced regularly so your family is prepared in case of an emergency. Make sure you and your family members are familiar with fire safety tips, and practice evacuation drills on a regular basis.