RISKY PLAY: Why does my child need it?
What is risky play?
While the name may make you feel a bit uncomfortable, it is essential for our children to engage in risky play. Risky play refers to unstructured play, usually outside, when children test their physical limits.
Children are the best judges of their own capabilities and by giving them the opportunity to engage in risky play, children can discover what their abilities are as well as what their own physical limits are. When faced with an opportunity to discover their limits, children learn to make appropriate risk assessments independently which they can then apply in future situations.
This makes children safer in the long run because they have a better skill set to assess risks and make decisions based on their experiences. This is especially important as they get older and a parent isn’t always watching as closely.
As an adult, hovering over your child or taking control of your child’s physical play reduces their ability to develop appropriate risk assessments. However, supervising adults are essential in risky play. It is important to ensure the space is not hazardous and you can act as a mentor to guide your child as they work through the decision-making process.
Rough and tumble play
One part of risky play is rough and tumble play. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of your child pushing or fighting or partaking in this sort of rough housing, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it is play. As long as it continues to be played and all children are happily consenting to the game, it is actually healthy and good for your child. Through this sort of rough and tumble play children are learning a multitude of lifelong social skills including the importance of consent, how to communicate their needs especially the need to stop an activity, as well as negotiation skills.
Like all risky play, it is important for an adult to be nearby in case guidance is needed. During rough and tumble play this may look like an adult voicing "I heard [CHILD] say stop, do you want your friend to stop pushing you?" OR if you notice a child starting to get tired of the rough play, remind them that it is okay to say "stop" and leave the game.
Risky Play with Pikler Triangle
Living in busy Ho Chi Minh City, not everyone has access to a safe space to let their children engage in risky play right outside their home. While you should still bring your child to the playground or park to engage in unstructured outdoor play, you can still meet some of these needs by providing them with a Pikler Triangle at home.
Pikler Triangles were specifically designed to provide children the opportunity for unstructured child-led play. Children use the tool completely independently to benefit more than just their gross motor development. This climbing tool helps children learn about their own abilities and limits while also allowing them to independently make decisions and solve problems through critical thinking and experimentation by testing and adapting their play.
As opposed to furniture or other structures around your home, Piker triangles are safe for climbing on. Through careful design, children can almost always get themselves out of any position they put themselves in while climbing. As your child grows and their needs change, so does their use of the triangle. Watch as a younger baby uses it to pull up or explore how to coordinate their hands and feet to climb, while an older child will discover how to balance on or hang from the rungs without using their hands. The uses of the triangle truly are as limitless as your child’s imagination.
Risky play with young children should always be supervised by an adult and there is no exception with the Pikler triangle. With a smaller baby, you may choose to be next to them as they climb, whereas with an older toddler, you may stand back and just keep a watchful eye as they experiment with their play.
While we believe a Pikler triangle has a place in every home, it is even more valuable for children growing up in a city that may not provide enough opportunities for risky play. By giving your child a Pikler triangle and the space to independently explore it, you are giving your child a tool to aid in the development of important life skills.