Children need more risky play – NDNA welcomes Ofsted comments

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National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) welcomed the head of Ofsted’s comments highlighting the need for risky play in nurseries this week.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman told the Nursery World business summit that she was worried about the culture of risk aversion.

While risk should be taken seriously, children need to be able to discover the world, and their “natural instincts to discover and explore” should not be stifled in risk-free environments, she added.

It is a sad fact of today’s society that only 21% of children play outside today compared to 71% of their parents – and if you are a child in 2017 you are more likely to go to hospital for falling out of bed than out of a tree.

Risky play can sound like a red flag for childcare providers, who are entrusted with the most important job of all for parents – the safety of their children.

However, risky play has many benefits, and NDNA has developed a new course to help nursery practitioners give children more opportunities for risky play.

Risky play is defined as giving children opportunities to encounter potential hazards in play, without putting them in danger of serious harm. There is a difference between putting a child at risk and allowing them to take risks.

NDNA’s Lead Early Years Adviser Jo Baranek said: “There are three types of risk: emotional, physical and mental. Good risks in play include those that support children’s learning and use their imagination.”

There are many benefits to risky play, from improving children’s confidence, resilience and social skills to motivating them to problem-solve. It also helps children to learn how to spot and assess risks in later life – how can they do this if they are wrapped in cotton wool?

“Children need to learn how to keep themselves safe,” said Jo. “Risky play lets them learn boundaries in a safe, secure environment where they can be supported by childcare professionals.

“Telling a child about risks is not the same as letting them experience it – for example, if an adult tells a child that a tower they are building is unstable and will fall, this has much less impact than letting them see the building blocks becoming unstable themselves and finding a solution.”

NDNA’s full-day course includes information on how nursery staff can make risk-benefit assessments, to help them to overcome thinking about the risk and think instead about the benefits.

Jo continued: “Ninety-nine percent of the time, we find that the benefit of risky play outweighs the risks.

“Nursery staff need to think about how to bring parents and children on board with risky play. For example, you could ask children for their suggestions on reducing risk, or planning the nursery environment, through a health and safety children’s council.”

The course also includes templates, activity ideas and quizzes to help embed learning. Find out more at www.ndna.org.uk/riskyplay, email training@ndna.org.uk or call 01484 407070. The course costs £75 per person for NDNA members and £100 for non-members.

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