Risks Versus Hazard
One of the big differences I notice between my childhood and the childhood of the children of today is the difference in how children are allowed to play now. I remember skipping along a wall on the way to my grandma’s house and nearly every week falling off and grazing my knee. Every time mum would warn me not to do it, and every week I would do it and fall. Much later I would think, “Why did my mum let me do that?”.
I soon learned to be careful and balance carefully at the part I usually fell.
Play is an essential part of children's well-being and development. When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate every piece of risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits. In Scandinavian countries children are much more exposed to risks from a very young age, and soon learn how to use simple tools, because the risks are managed. Children will not learn about risks if they are wrapped up in cotton wool, they become more resilient and, “triers”. Taking risks is part of life and explores an understanding of their abilities. Sometimes we fail the first time. Do you know what? You just need to try again. Risks are ever present in life, for example, you would not stop your child from walking. You would not stop them from walking down a road, with effective management you can teach them to hold your hand to be safe, and not run in the road. You would not discourage your child from using scissors in case they cut themselves, you would just demonstrate how to use them safely and manage the risk effectively. Building bridges, dens and ramps with crates and planks of wood not only has it the physical ability to develop co-ordination but also the benefits to self-esteem when successful at something. You would, however, turn the handle of a pan around, or move an overhanging flex of a just boiled kettle. There are differences between risks and hazards, a hazard is something that might cause harm.
Please don't stop or be afraid of risky play. Risky play is about probability and consequence, it is the chance, High or low, if someone will be harmed by a hazard. Children need to constantly check their physical and emotional limits. There will always be some risk in play if it is assessed and supervised then the benefits far outreach the dangers.