The Elements and Risky Play

The elements – earth, water, fire and air have potential for children to experience challenging, adventurous, risky play. Knight (2011) situates risk and adventure in outdoor play within the four elements. However, mudslides, tidal waves, forest fires and tornados have the high potential of evoking fear for everyone, children and adults alike. Fear is a negative experience, but with the right measure, it provides exhilaration and thrill. Gray (2014) suggests that:

Fear, you would think, is a negative experience to be avoided whenever possible. Yet, as everyone who has a child or once was one knows, children love to play in risky ways—ways that combine the joy of freedom with just the right measure of fear to produce the exhilarating blend known as thrill.

Every day in the outdoor environment, weather can change and opportunities are provided that support children in learning about the elements and experiencing thrilling adventures. Imagine standing, arms stretched with the wind blowing. You know that you won’t blow away; think of how exciting it is to feel the strength of gusts and to imagine flying.  Imagine being outside participating in a risky play workshop with other educators in May and you experience sunshine, wind, rain and hail in one day! The exhilaration that you would feel, is it not important for children to have this experience? Early learning teachers use the elements to provide children the opportunities for risky play.