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Challenging Play – Risky!

Children need and want to be given the opportunity to take risks so that they can explore their limits, try new experiences and develop. Although any injury can be distressing for the child and the Carer the experience of a small injuries is part of childhood and actually plays a positive part in the development of your child. However, testing and developing these skills should be in a safe and creative environment giving the Child opportunities to:
• Develop skills in negotiating the environment (including risks);
• Learn how to use equipment safely and for its designed purpose;
• Develop coordination and orientation skills;
• Take acceptable risks; and
• Learn about the consequences (positive/negative) of risk taking

It is important to remember that Risks don’t always have a negative outcome. Many positives can come from taking risks. Risks can be divided into two outcomes:

• A CHALLENGE: something obvious to the child where he/she can determine their ability and decide whether to take that risk
• A HAZARD: something unseen or not obvious to the child that often results in injury. BOTH ARE RISKS!

Some Hazards may have value in that they may present an opportunity for Learning but try to avoid each potential hazard with the same amount of seriousness. Consideration needs to be given to which hazards may need to be modified or removed as compared to those which might be acceptable or desirable because they create an opportunity for the child to gain access to potential benefits. What hazards need to be created to enhance the child’s opportunities to gain potential benefits? What is to be done about identified hazards, if anything? Can this Hazard actually be reframed and managed as a challenge?

Managing Risk & Challenge

• Effective risk assessment and management requires:
• Distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable risks including:
• The likelihood of coming to harm;
• The severity of that harm; and
• The benefits, rewards or outcomes of the activity.
• Observing the children and identifying those who need greater challenge or specific support
• Establishing and displaying expectations for behaviour
• Actively encourage children to assess risks and possible consequences
• Establish a systematic maintenance program

Benefits Of Risk Taking

When considering the benefits, rewards or outcomes of the activity you may include the following:
• Pleasure
• Development of self-confidence and well-being
• Engagement with the natural environment and natural elements
• Learning through experience
• Mixing between different age ranges

*Source: Kidsafe NSW Inc. http://www.kidsafensw.org/playground-safety/challenging-play-risky/

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