Gill (2007) has identified four arguments in support of risk in childhood. Click the words below to learn more. Does this information change your perceptions of risky play? After you read each, do you believe it is important to advocate for children’s increased opportunities for risky play? How can you use these four positions to advocate for risky play?
First, encounters with certain types of risk are said to help children learn how to manage those risks. Such arguments underpin many safety education initiatives, which teach children practical skills that help them to protect themselves, such as swimming, cycling or road safety.
Second, it is argued that many – perhaps most – children have an appetite for risk-taking that, if not fed somehow, will lead them to seek out situations in which they may be exposed to greater risks. For example, the development of publicly funded skate parks and other ‘extreme sports’ facilities are based in part on the view that children clearly want to take part in such activities, and that dedicated provision is preferable to compelling enthusiasts to pursue them in streets and other public spaces.
Third, the claim is made that children gain other benefits as a side effect of being given the chance to undertake activities with a degree of risk. For instance, advocates for children’s play assert that active outdoor play always involves some risk, but that the risks are greatly outweighed by the health and developmental benefits. Similar arguments are made by those educationalists calling for a greater degree of self-directed learning opportunities in the early years and in the school curriculum in subjects as varied as science, drama and the arts.
Fourth, the final rationale in favour of risk is also a developmental one that focuses on the longer-term benefits of risk encounters. The claim is that children build their character and personality through facing up to adverse circumstances where they know there is the possibility of injury or loss. For some advocates of this view, the predominant character traits nurtured are adventurousness and entrepreneurialism. For others, they are resilience and self-reliance. However, there is a common assertion that overcoming challenging situations is an essential part of living a meaningful and satisfying life.