Risky play makes some parents worried, I am one such parent, so I understand. It took me a long time, and a lot of training, to be comfortable with risky play but I knew that it was important because I could see the benefit of it in the children that I spent my days with. If you are like me, then you want your child to experience all the benefits of testing their limits and exploring their environment but your own comfort level stops you from letting them really challenge themselves.
Most parents are good at letting toddlers and babies explore and learn new skills. Learning to walk is very challenging and high risk, as is exploring the world by putting everything in your mouth! These risks we are comfortable with and navigate all the time. It isn't until they get a little older and are running and jumping and want to set themselves new challenges, like climbing trees, that we start to worry that we can no longer keep them safe.
That is where qualified and experienced educators can help. Forest School educators are trained to risk assess both the environment and the activity. We constantly look for possible hazards and put control measures in place to keep the children in our care as safe as possible. Our job is to make the environment as safe as possible for children to benefit from risky play and experience nature in it's truest form. I personally have never let a child climb a tree that I haven't assessed to be safe and climbed myself :)
Risky play is not dangerous play. It is play that the child has been drawn to and the educator has deemed appropriate (for that child's skill and development) and safe enough to allow.
Benefits of Risky Play from Play England (2007):
‘Children and young people themselves recognise that ‘you can’t make everything safe’ and that a balance is needed between risks and fun. Children recognise that knowing about risks and how to manage them is an essential part of growing up... Through play, children are able to learn about risks and use their own initiative. If children and young people are not allowed to explore and learn through playing and taking part in positive activities, they will not learn how to judge risks and manage them for themselves. These skills learnt through play and other activities can act as a powerful form of prevention in other situations where children and young people are at risk.’ (Play England, 2007)
‘It is argued that taking risks can have positive implications in terms of children’s developmental, social and emotional needs, as well as their overall health. By providing the opportunities for children to manage their own risks in a controlled environment, they will learn vital life skills needed for adulthood, and gain the experience needed to face the unpredictable nature of the world (Gill, 2007)... Risk taking is considered to have further benefits, which contribute to the development of desirable personality traits, including creativity (Susa and Benedict in Ball, 2002)... Dweck (2000) states that encouraging children to enjoy challenges rather than to shy away from them could also increase their persistence and learning abilities.’