Risks are part of everyday life and children will only learn to deal with risks and avoiding dangers through experimentation and play. Exploration, adventure and uncertainty are at the heart of the process by which children get to grips with the objects, people and places around them. Play is all about exploring ideas of competence, power and control.
The world in which children grow up is full of dangers. Canals, streams, ponds; wherever there’s water, there’s danger. Traffic is the prime cause of death among children. Constant risks are on the lure: however, we need to recognise that risk cannot be eliminated. The zero-risk childhood is a myth, and so is the zero-risk setting. Children can and do have accidents, fight, get hurt or upset, feel sad or frustrated, in any situation or setting. To keep children inside to avoid the risks certainly is no solution.
• Gill T. (2007) No Fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse Society. London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
• Gill T. (2010) Nothing Ventured: Balancing Risks and Benefits in the Outdoors. English Outdoor Council
• Tovey H. (2007) Playing Outdoors. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open University Press
• Russell W, Lester S (2007) Play for a Change. London: Play England
We notice there is a change in our thinking about dealing with risk, as educators become more aware of the importance of fostering children's appetite for adventure and discovery, and as public and political opinion swing away from an over-zealous approach to child safety. Meanwhile on the front line, initiatives such as greening schoolgrounds and creating more outdoor kindergartens have spread dramatically over the last few years, as has a more creative approach to thinking about outdoor space. Green playgrounds offer great opportunities to learn to rethink the issue of risks and dangers.