When most people think of the word ‘risk’, it is often confused with danger. Risks are a great way to learn skills in negotiating environments and learn about both positive and negative consequences of actions.
At Tops, we support children to learn and develop and expose them to the realities of the world in which they will live, for example, we use glasses and crockery for meals and children are able to learn to use real tools under supervision. This is a world not free from risk but rather one where risk is ever-present. The opportunity for play develops a child’s risk awareness and prepares them for their future lives, reducing more major injuries and dangerous risk-taking later by allowing minor bumps today.
We also understand that your children need and want to take some risks when they play. We aim to respond to these needs and interests by offering the children a stimulating and challenging environment where they can explore and learn. Children learn resilience, persistence and about their own bodies by trying, falling or failing, and being encouraged to try again.
At Tops Forest School, children are given the opportunity to use bow saws, build shelters, cross rivers and more. Everyday risks children may take could include climbing a tree, jumping over a small stream, den building and much more.
When children are allowed to engage freely in adventurous play they quickly learn to assess their own skills and match them to the demands of the environment. If unsuccessful the first time, they tend to be resilient and rebound quickly; either trying again and again until they master the situation or wisely avoid it, whichever they choose is the best decision.
If children aren’t encouraged to take risks they won’t be able to practice risk-assessment, a trait that will be used throughout their life. This could lead to children being timid and reluctant to try new things.
To be able to allow children to play in an environment, the staff members have to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable risks by considering the following:
- The likeliness and severity of harm
- The benefits, rewards or outcomes of the activity
- Identifying who needs a greater challenge or specific support
- Establish the benefits of risk taking
When establishing the benefits rewards and outcomes of an activity, staff weigh up the positives as well as negatives of a risk. By doing this, we are able to provide managed risks that are engaging, developmentally appropriate and beneficial for children of all ages.