Girl on rope swing over stream

Why is there risk in children’s play?

Play is crucial to child development.

It is in play that we test our beliefs of how the world is made up and how we fit and function within it. As part of this testing process we need to take some risk in order to discover the limitations of ourselves and of the world around us. Without this how would we develop?

So by tackling small but real risks in play children develop and learn to deal with risk in the rest of their lives.

If you would like to know more about this please take a look at the Bath and North East Somerset Council Play Policy (1999) or Risk Benefit Toolkit.
What is a Risk Benefit approach?

In many aspects of life we do all we can to lower risk as much as possible or even remove it.

However in other aspects of life the riskiness is a key part of the activity; Take, for example, bungee jumping or rugby. Both of these activities have a distinct element of risk and with rugby low level injury can be expected in almost every game. However, these risks cannot be removed as it is one of the main elements which makes the game exciting and challenging and helps the players develop and improve.

In a similar way it is often necessary to have some risk in children’s play to give them similar benefits of development, achievement and truly satisfying fun.

So the Risk Benefit approach is one where we look at what risks are present and what, if any, benefits are gained from having these risks. A good judgement can then be made on what risk, if any, is acceptable.
Playful Risk and the Council

Bath and North East Somerset Council have adopted this Risk Benefit approach to children’s play as it supports the Council’s commitment to provide “challenging and stimulating” play opportunities, as outlined in the Council’s Play Policy (1999).
The Risk Benefit Toolkit

The Council has also created a Risk Benefit Toolkit to support other organisations and people working with children to make effective judgements on what the real risks are to children when they play and how to manage them. 
It is aimed to keep children safe from serious injury while helping them get maximum benefit from their play.
Photograph kindly provided by Swainswick Explorers

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