In providing our play based and child led programme,we have all learned to constantly assess the benefits of encouraging and allowing the children to take more risks as an integral part of their play. To trust children you need to first trust yourself . We value the richness and authenticity this brings to their learning, and the amazing discoveries they make about themselves and others.
When children are allowed to play unhindered by constant adult expectations, they begin to take on the management of risk themselves. They internalise the procedures needed to assess risk, to constantly challenge themselves physically, emotionally and socially. They become comfortable with a level of risk appropriate to them, to know their own limits and boundaries, and become confident in their ability to apply the process of self assessing risk and challenging themselves, in any situation that they may encounter in their lives. It is a lifelong process and the importance of building a solid basis though the play experiences in early childhood is imperative.
A ladder tied into a tree provides an infinite level of risk taking to every child. From the hesitant child who sits back and watches others, maybe for days, before eventually succumbing to the challenge. Waiting for a quiet time, and taking that meticulously planned, white knuckled, slow, steady climb up the first couple of rungs. Their sense of achievement and learning equally important as the child who has taken one look at the ladder, assessed its risk as minimal to them, run to it and climbed right to the top to see what the world looked like from high amongst the dappled light of the leaves and branches, and then leapt joyfully to the mat below.
It is easy to see this risk taking at work in the outdoor environment, but it is equally important in the play invitations we offer in the indoor environment. Glass and other breakables are an intergral part of the daily offerings. Children learn to manage the potential risk of breakages, they are trusted to handle the tools and use paint from glass jars. To explore all sorts of natural and man made treasures from around the world in their own time. We acknowledge the potential for breakages, but that is all part of the learning. A child will struggle to learn the skills needed to handle something fragile if they are never given the opportunity, time and experience to explore and discover the appropriate ways to use them.
Everyday children (and indeed we as adults) master new skills, assess and take new risks and slowly add them to their repertoire of knowledge about the world that they will carry with them through out their life. As educators we have to constantly evaluate our own bias that we made have developed from being a part of such a risk adverse culture. We must trust that through providing an environment in which children are trusted and encouraged to take risks, that they will indeed flourish. We must take the time to plan and evaluate the risk of the experiences we offer to children, but more importantly, constantly ensure that we balance the potential risk with weighing up the enormous benefits that come from the availability of such play experiences. We do not push children to take unnecessary risks, but we provide an environment in which they feel comfortable and supported to explore their own risk taking at a level appropriate to each and every one of them.
Written by Nic
Early Years Learning Framework
Outcome 1- Children have a strong sense of identity
Principle 1– Children feel safe, secure and supported
Principle 2– Children develop their emerging autonomy, inter dependence, resilience and sense of agency
Principle 3– Children develop knowledgeable and confident self-identities
Outcome 3 : Children have a strong sense of wellbeing
Principle 1– Children become strong in their social and emotional wellbeing
Principle 2– Children take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing
Outcome 4 – Children are confident and involved learners
Principle 1– Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination, and reflexivity.
Principle 2– Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, enquiry, experimentation, hypothesizing, researching, and investigation.
Principle 3– Children transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another
Principle 4– Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies, and natural and processed materials.