Child-led Risky Play and Heavy Work

New play space

With the removal of the play structure (thank you Reitz Family!) we now have a wonderful dedicated space for our large loose parts. It has become one of the most used spaces in the yard by providing the space and materials to support child-led risky play and heavy work.




Heavy work

Heavy work is any activity that puts pressure on muscles and joints as they are moving and typically involves pushing, pulling or lifting. These activities help to provide proprioceptive stimulation, which helps children to self-regulate. The tires in particular are very heavy and difficult to maneuver so the children have to work together to move them from place to place. They have even managed to stack the smaller one on top of one of the larger ones to create a tower.




Climbing and swing on the dome, digging in the sand, pushing someone on the swing or pulling them in a wagon are all activities that provide heavy work and the more we step back and let the children do these types of things for themselves the more we are supporting their sensory development and increased body awareness.



Risky play

Risky play is described as thrilling and exciting play that involves challenges such as heights, speed and rough and tumble play. It offers children the opportunity to be physically active, become more confident, independent, and resilient, as well as learn valuable self regulation skills. The outdoor environment in particular encourages play scenarios that cannot be replicated indoors.



The benefits of risky play

Children are driven to push themselves and taking risks is a way for them to figure out what they are capable of doing. It develops their self-confidence, executive functioning abilities and risk-management skills. In fact research shows that engaging in risky play actually reduces the risk of injury.




Children should be able to do their own experimenting and their own research. The essential thing is that in order for a child to understand something he must construct it himself. That which we allow a child to discover by himself will remain with him. Jean Piaget


Supporting risky play

Don’t help children up or down. Children will push themselves only as far as they are capable of going. If we help them we can inadvertently push them beyond their abilities. Assume they are competent but stay close by. Check in with them about how they are feeling. “How do you feel up there, does your body feel safe?” If you are feeling uncomfortable or unsure ask another adult to help supervise.

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