Why is risk important in children’s play?
Children of all ages and abilities have a natural urge to play. What is more, play is good for children. The Welsh Government Play Policy (2002) notes that children have ‘an instinctive desire to play’ and that play is ‘the very process of learning and growth’. When children play, their families and the wider community also benefit.
Whenever children play, they are impelled to go from what is routine and familiar – and thus boring – to what is unknown, uncertain and engaging. The Play Policy also notes: ‘children have an innate desire to seek out opportunities to take increasing risks.’ The risks can rarely be completely eliminated without also undermining the experience for children.
Many children and young people actively seek out adventurous, exciting play experiences. Providing challenging play opportunities in managed environments may help to reduce accidents overall, because they can take place in locations that are safe from traffic and other serious hazards. Disabled children have an equal if not greater need for adventurous play opportunities, since they may be denied the freedom of choice enjoyed by their non- disabled peers.
It is not surprising that children often have minor accidents when they play. Moreover, minor and easily healed injuries in play environments are not necessarily a problem. Indeed they are all but inevitable, especially in challenging, adventurous provision. That said, playgrounds of all types are comparatively safe places, and playing on playgrounds is safer than taking part in many other sports or leisure pursuits.