Positive Risk Taking

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Playing adventurously motivates children to develop persistence and an enjoyment rather than fear of challenge and extending and exploring boundaries. A willingness to take risks is an important characteristic of an effective learner. The Early Years Foundation Stage guidance states that an effective learner is willing ‘to have a go’ through initiating activities and seeking challenge, showing a ‘can-do’ attitude, taking a risk, engaging in new experiences, and learning by trial and error. When adults look anxious or repeatedly say to children ‘mind out’, ‘be careful’, ‘don’t do that’, ‘come down or you’ll fall’, there is a danger that they undermine this important disposition to learn by communicating their own anxiety. There is evidence that risk and challenge in a supportive environment is positively linked with emotional well-being, resilience and mental health and that small mistakes and minor accidents can offer some protection against the negative effects of future failure. Managing a small amount of fear and uncertainty, such as balancing along a wobbly plank or rolling fast down a slope and holding your nerve when feeling on the edge of control, is important to emotional well-being. Such play develops children’s resilience and help them to cope physically and emotionally with unexpected events. Vigorous almost out of control play, such as swinging, hanging, rolling or romping – where the normal body position is altered – is crucial for developing children’s sense of balance and sense of their own body in space. Research on children’s neuro-motor skills in primary schools shows that children with immature motor skills do not perform as well on educational measures at eight years old. However, despite an inbuilt sense of danger, children who lack experience can sometimes take risks that are inappropriate, which border on recklessness or which put themselves or others at risk of serious injury. As in many areas of learning, children need the support of experienced others who can help them recognize and assess risk for themselves, teach safe ways of doing things and encourage a ‘can-do’ attitude and a positive disposition to adventurous play. Teaching skills such as testing the strength of a branch before climbing or using a stick to measure the depth of water in a stream before paddling helps children to feel confident in managing risky situations. At Young Friends Nursery we fully support this and as such our children are very effective and confident learners and explorers