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Types of Play: Risk Play

toddler on top of a wooden obstacle
May 10th, 2022Types of Play

Educators at Umbrella have been participating in professional development regarding Risk Play and are introducing these concepts to different groups based on how comfortable the children feel. We spoke to our educators at Umbrella South Meadow and Umbrella Winona about some of the ways they are incorporating risk in playtime:

The Floor is Lava

Many age groups love to play “The Floor is Lava”. In this game, players must stay off the floor, imagining that it’s made of lava and too hot to touch and climb among the furniture and objects in the room instead. Together, our educators and children establish rules and discuss how they can play the game safely.

Balance Play

Toddler and Preschool children at Umbrella South Meadow have been engaging in multiple activities requiring balance at heights. Inside, the children are supervised as they stand up on windowsills to see outside, and walk across or jump off of tables and wooden block structures built by our educators. They often build ramps independently, or with help from educators, during outdoor play for themselves and their friends to climb and jump from.

children balacing on wooden blocks

Building Confidence with Tools

School-age groups at Umbrella Winona have been exploring working with various tools. Our educators teach the children safety protocols and demonstrate safety awareness before engaging with these materials. For example, children are given the opportunity to use screwdrivers to take apart and reassemble a variety of small electronics; they also use hammers and nails to execute building plans that they can create on graph paper.

collage of children jumping and climbing

Why Risk It?

Allowing children the freedom to engage in risk play can make people nervous! However, the benefits of manageable risk play far outweigh the consequences of not learning how to confront risk when it comes to a child’s overall health and development. The vast array of skills developed during risk play become tools for children as they grow into responsible adults.

When engaging in challenging supervised activities, children exercise their proprioception: the sense of self-movement, body position, and location in relation to other objects and people. Climbing, hanging upside down, and swinging around help a child’s vestibular system development: the body’s sensory system that provides balance and spatial awareness.

two toddlers helping eachother climb

In addition to physically strengthening fine and large muscle groups, children also cognitively develop self-confidence and problem-solving skills, when they challenge themselves in risk play. Children learn to trust one another and the adults around them when they are provided opportunities to take risks because they are shown support and care.

Although accidents happen when children engage in risk play, they learn important lessons from their missteps. There are significant differences between risks and hazards. As educators, we are trained to identify hazards and eliminate them to ensure that children are able to take manageable risks as they explore the limits of their environments and bodies.

Participating in risk play supports children in becoming more competent, capable, and adventurous people.

Do your children engage in risk plat home? Has your child ever leaped from one couch to another? Have they climbed your backyard fence or used natural objects such as sticks to fend off unwelcome guests on their pretend pirate ship? Have you ever participated in play that might be deemed risky?

preschooler balancing on a wooden brick


Learn more:

  • Follow this link for a brief video and an article from The Nature of Things around Risk Play!
  • Read our first post of this series on “The Importance of Sensory Play Experiences”.

Explore Types Of Play

Loose Parts
Schema Play
Sensory Play

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