Risk Benefit Assessments

Topic Progress:

Early learning teachers learn to minimize and manage risk by conducting risk/benefit assessments, which identify benefits and levels of hazard. Prior to taking children into an outdoor environment, early learning teachers do a sweep of the area that children would be playing in to examine potential risks such as fallen logs or branches. Early learning teachers document the risk benefit assessment as part of due diligence. They identify levels of hazard and ways to minimize harm to the children that can be shared with administrators and families. This professional practice helps to identify potential risk of injury and determine strategies that support children in risky play without danger.
Case Study – The Rocky Playground
Now imagine that you are in a setting that has a playspace with large rocks surrounding the area and the children run/climb around and around as in this photo. Write a risk benefit assessment of this play site and include it in your reflection.

A Risk Benefit Assessment – Math Sticks

We include a generic template for a risk benefit assessment that you might find useful. When you click on each heading you will see an example we created based on a stick experience as featured in this photo.

Subject of Risk Assessment

Painted Stick Activity

Description of Activity, Location, Tools, Equipment

Children will use vegetable peelers to “whittle” the sticks free of bark at both ends. Then paint in rainbow colours is to be used for creating geometric shapes outdoors


The Date

Name of Assessor

Your Name

How will the Children Benefit From Playing in this Area?

  • Children will use vegetable peelers to “whittle” the sticks free of bark at both ends. Then paint in rainbow colours is to be used for creating geometric shapes outdoors.
  • Children will benefit by learning the safety precautions needed to whittle with knives. Children will benefit from having access to sticks with multiple math possibilities.
  • Children will benefit because they will feel challenged and confident in using the equipment and creating materials for their play and learning.

Possible Hazards and Risks:


Measure to Reduce Risk – Severity or Likelihood

Wear safety (garden) gloves. Discuss with children and model appropriate positioning for whittling.

Precedents or Comparisons

I have done this before with children and there have been no incidents.


I feel that this activity, risky but not hazardous, is beneficial to the children.

Remember when you posted in the comment box about your risky play comfort level from one to ten? You had picked some words to describe how you felt about adventurous, challenging and risky play. For this module’s comments, describe how you feel about this type of play now. What is your comfort level now that you are at the end of the module?

***UPDATE*** There are some new online tools available from Outdoor Play Canada outdoorplaycanada

Outdoor Play Canada is a network of advocates, practitioners, researchers and organizations working together to promote, protect, and preserve access to play in nature and the outdoors for all people living in Canada. Outdoor Play Canada provides leadership to galvanize the outdoor play movement across Canada to promote the health and wellness of Canadians and the environments in which we live. Visit

Risk-Benefit Assessment for Outdoor Play: A Canadian Toolkit

This toolkit supports practitioners who encourage children’s outdoor play. It takes a balanced approach to risk and safety. The toolkit was created it because of growing concerns that children are overprotected when playing outdoors or stopped from going outside altogether. As a result, they miss out on the joy and sense of adventure they should have from playing outside, and lose out on the long-term benefits of outdoor play.

Risk Assessment Workbook

This workbook takes you through understanding and evaluating the risks of a project. This workbook was created collaboratively by Civic Innovation YYC, Liveable Streets and The Integrated Risk Management at The City of Calgary.


  1. Christine Norman

    I definitely feel like I have a higher comfort level with my own children then I do with the children in my childcare centre. I would have no issue with my own children whittling sticks with a vegetable peeler. My own children have plenty of opportunity for risky play. I am starting to feel more confident with risky play within the childcare centre as well. Communication with parents is vital. I think the activity with the vegetable peepers can be a great opportunity for learning and exploring and the risks minimized.

  2. Michelle Davis

    I feel this type of play is great, provided teachers have properly assessed each risky situation. If the benefits outweigh the risks, then its a big yes from me.

  3. Jennifer Yarmish

    Subject: Large playground rocks.
    Description: preschool outdoor play area
    Date: June 28, 2021
    Assessor: Jennifer Yarmish
    Benefits: Children can practice gross motor skills, balancing, spatial awareness. They will get an opportunity challenge their abilities and feel a sense of accomplishment when successful.
    Risks: falls potentially resulting in scrapes/bruises
    Measures to reduce risk: ensure that areas around rocks are free of potentially sharp/rough or dangerous debris; staff provide active supervision of the area
    Precedents: children have fallen off previously but it has not resulted in serious injury.
    Judgement: I believe that with adequate staff supervision the benefits of the rock play outweigh the risk.

    I think that I am at an 8 for my comfort level of risky play.

  4. Nikki Littlechild

    My comfort level with risky play remains the same, 9. I am ok with risk however I do hesitate when I see something that could become a serious incident report with licensing.

  5. Rachael Ewan

    I think my comfort is about the same, and I may have overestimated it by 1 or 2 last time.
    Subjective Risk Assesment: Large Rocks
    Description of Activity: Children playing on and around large rocks surrounding playground
    Location, Tools, Equiptment: Large rocks in play area
    Benefits: Balance, risk taking, gross motor skills, awareness of surroundings
    Possible hazards and risks: falling, running nearby and falling into rocks.
    Measures to reduce severity or likelihood: Speaking with the children about the risks, providing active supervision
    Precedents or comparisons judgement: I have seen a student fall and hit their face on a wooden box before. They lost a tooth. The children have been playing in this area repeatedly without incident
    I am comfortable letting the children play on the rocks, with appropriate discussion, and knowing their abilities.

  6. Heather Diewert

    Rock balancing

    Children can freely move over, around, and balance on rocks structures

    Children will develop a sense of body control as the balance, jump from, jump over, and maneuver uneven surfaces of rock structures. They will learn to judge distance as they move from one rock to the others, and gain confidence and self-esteem for meeting challenges.

    Risk of cuts and bruises, and a very low risk of falling on a rock and fracturing a bone.

    Ensure that the children are wearing adequate footwear.

    I have done this before with children and there have been no incidents.

    I believe that this has a low risk of severe injury.

  7. Heather Brekkaas

    I don’t feel the risk factors are too high, rocks are a pretty safe option to play on assuming they keep them on the ground and don’t throw them.

  8. Dana Wilson

    Subject- large rocks
    Description- playground with large rocks children will play on
    Date- June 21/21
    Assessor- Dana Wilson
    Benefit- children will gain gross motor skills, promotes social skills
    Possible risks- cuts, falls bruises
    Measure to reduce risk- discuss with children awareness of body, space, balance
    Judgement- I feel this activity is safe, the hazards are limited.
    I would allow the children to play near and climb on the rocks.
    I am still a firm believer in the benefits of risky play! My comfort level with risky play is still very high.

  9. Rachelle Gregoire

    I’m starting to concrete ideas into my mind. Risky play can start small. Like the potatoe peelers! I am also getting more comfortable with the idea of children having small cuts and scrapes.

  10. Jody Anderson

    My comfort level with risky play has not changed since the beginning. I understand more now that there are various types of risky play and with it comes higher or lower riskt levels but my overall rating has not changed I am still at a 7.

  11. lisa.rodney

    I was at an 8…but might move it to a 9 now. More confident with assessing risk reward.

  12. Anna Mary McKenney

    I still feel very confident with risky play but I do feel more confident now explaining its importance to peers and parents

  13. Lindsey Cooper

    My comfort level for risk is still an 8, I think after more experience allowing children to take place in risky play it will go up to a 10.

  14. Bonnie Willson

    -rocks on playground
    -area where children play has several fair sized rocks as part of the landscape
    -june 12/21
    how will the children benefit
    -they will play on and around rocks
    -learn balance, self regulate in rocky environment
    -learn to assess safe conditions for paying on the rocks
    possible injuries
    –scuffs, scrapes, bruises
    ways to lessen hazards
    explain to children how to inspect rocks, model how to play on them with limited caution

    i would say my comfort level is a 7.

  15. Angel Huang

    I think my comfort level is still 6-7ish out of 10. Yet i will still let children to explore and test their boundaries.

    Now imagine that you are in a setting that has a playspace with large rocks surrounding the area and the children run/climb around and around as in this photo. Write a risk benefit assessment of this play site and include it in your reflection.
    For me making sure the rocks are not wet or moss on top which cost slippery that may lead to slipping and hitting the rocks and causing minor hazard. Must let children know it’s not safe to jump on the rock, or to another rock, but they can try to jump down on the woodsy area.

  16. Ruth Novak

    For this particular activity, I am at a 6. This is only because I do not have experience with this type of risky play. I do see the benefits and it is something I would try with the preschool children. It teaches them about really concentrating on what they are supposed to do.

  17. Shannon Stewart

    My comfort level has not changed. I see value in children climbing the rocks, hiding behind the rocks, drawing on the rocks with chalk. My words are playful, energetic and persisting

  18. Mikaela Reyes

    i think my level of comfort from the beginning, which is 8 is still the same. I really enjoyed reading through this couse as it gives me affirmation that my beliefs in play are appropriate and for children.

  19. Betty-Ann Ryz

    Rocks are a great item for the outdoor play space. They have many uses for different types of play. My comfort level is 9/10

  20. Jessica Garner

    I think my comfort level is the same as it was at the beginning of this module. I have already done a lot of work and study to better understand and support risky play, so much of this module was review for me.

  21. Kimberley Thompson

    I still feel as risky play is important for.chukdren to learn everyday use out of objects and use their full potential in the movement through their body to climb, jump, run and so much more. I still feel comfortable with it as long as you do a risk assessment and make sure they don’t get severely hurt.

  22. Amanda Christison

    I think that I definitely feel more comfortable being that much more informed from reading this module, but I would still advocate for more education and workshops that involves families as well as finding a common language and understanding with licensing officers as they can sometimes put an end to riskier play when we are told otherwise to advocate and promote it so the mixed messages is frustrating as an educator. I’m definitely open to the riskier play opportunities with the children as they are presented here. The educators survey the area to remove potential hazards and create a risky play environment that has intention and purpose. And I think that’s what matters – plus the language we use – when we are sharing this with parents as we can describe and document the bigger learning picture for the child and hopefully that would ease some tensions about their child possibly getting hurt or them not understanding this type of play experience. I think as long as it is demonstrated and then closely and actively supervised, it’s all good!

  23. Silvia Martínez

    The children like to play with rocks just I need to watch closer but it is important to give the safety guidelines
    Level of Risk I am think it is Moderate Hazart 8/10

  24. Julia Kunz

    I feel a bit more comfortable, learning more ECE theory and hearding other educators perspectives

  25. Prabhulata Immaraju

    My words were encouraged, confident and curious and my level is 9/10. As we support risky play and given the rocks n trees and the flexibility of the children to ride their bikes around or on the rocks etc gives them a lot of opportunities to take risks n learn about assessing their strengths n fears n levels of comfort.

  26. Charlene Durrant

    I would feel comfortable allowing the children to play on the rocks. The children are capable of being able to judge if it is too risky for them.

  27. Charlene Durrant

    I would feel comfortable allowing the children to play on the rocks. We have rocks at my centre that the children can walk on.

  28. Amanda N

    I still don’t feel 100% comfortable with risky play, but I do understand its importance, and I’m working on my concerns to provide more risky play experiences for the children in my care.

  29. Andrea Preissl

    I would say the children can climb on the rocks. There is some risk but I would not consider it a big hazard. My comfort level is still a 9/10 .

  30. Mizuho Kashiwagi

    The rock is not too tall and not too big. I feel comfortable the children climbing and jumping off the rocks. It seems to me that there are poles and objects besides the rocks, I would remove those if possible so that it gives clear space for the children.

  31. Nadira Ramnauth

    My comfort level for risky play remains 9/10. Children are always curious to try out different things. It’s good when we give children the opportunity to challenge themselves in a variety of risky play. If parents are concerned that their child might fall and get injured on the rocks, we can provide the children with safety hats and other protective gears.

  32. Caroline Driedger

    you had picked some words to describe how you felt about adventurous, challenging and risky play. For this module’s comments, describe how you feel about this type of play now. What is your comfort level now that you are at the end of the module?
    I still agree with the words i chose, excited . Risky play with my own children was always a part of there play. The center is another story My comfort level is very strong but what this module did was renew my sense of confidence to encourage my team . to allow risky play.

  33. Caroline Driedger

    My comfort level is a 10 . I love the assessment tool i believe that this would help parents understand why we allow the risky play. Words to describe how i feel, inspired, energetic, impatient ( till my team takes this course)

  34. Joanne Falk

    I would let the children play/climb on the rocks. They would be able to do so at their own level of risk with staff nearby. My comfort level remains the same

  35. Alphonsine Hategekimana

    I think walking on the rocks is a good example for children, because he concentrates, walks without worrying about the danger. The risk that can happen is that the child can have wounds on the knees or scratches on their hands. the risk benefit would be Limited Hazard

  36. Janice Duncan

    I think that walking across the rocks presents a challenge that the children would enjoy and because they may trip a little a scrapped knee may be the worse that could happen. On either side of the rocks are cushions o f shock absorbing material should the children fall off the edge.

  37. Laura Mcintosh

    my comfort level with risky play remains at a 9 after reviewing this chapter, I think it is very important to have it incorporated into the children’s outdoor play,

  38. Stephanie Vieira

    I still feel the same but I learned a lot more about risky play that I still need to try. I think for myself that hazards our the one that gets to me more. Which I still need to learn more of.

  39. Ai Paul

    My comfort level is still the same after learning this chapter; however, the risk benefit assessment is quite helpful to organize my thoughts and explain why I incorporate particular “risky play” activities in my practice to families.

  40. Kamaldeep Sidhu

    I would the children play freely and explore on rocks. I would set some safety guidelines and rules. I allow them to test their limits.

  41. Jaclyn Geiger

    It is hard to evaluate from not being there in person, but I do see that educator would need to choose particular placement so eyes can see all learners. I think the risk I would be more concerned about would not be the rocks, they look inviting. I would be more concerned for all of the support poles in the play space for bumped heads.

  42. Carrie Maclellan 

    It is somewhat the same as I see the benefits and would encourage risky play as long as those I am working with are also comfortable

  43. Carli Olson

    The risk factors in this area don’t seem to be very high. There is nothing I would change and this challenges children to strengthen their muscles and problem solving skills to maneuver around the play ground, especially if this area is new to children.

  44. Patricia Lynch-Staunton

    There are a few elements I would alter in my risk assessment. I would give the children brushes to sweep the rocks clear of sand if they were just beginning to balance on the rocks. They do not appear to be icy nor wet, so not too slippery. I do not see hazard in this play space, just opportunities for cahllenging, adventurous play. The gross motor benefits of jumping, leaping, climbing,twirling outweighs the small risk of serious injury. My comfort level in this space would be 8-9.

  45. Alison Rinas

    I would the children play freely and explore, Allowing them the opportunity to take risk and learn through their experience. I would provide the children’s with the safety guideline before allowing them to freely explore first. Explaining how we can explore freely, but we need to do it safely using our own risk management senses. I feel providing children’s with information and then trust, allow them to become more resourceful and capable.

  46. Romy Ralph

    I think using the rocks to play and explore at their own level of risk would far outweigh the hazard. They have the opportunity to test their limits and challenge themselves.
    My words were curious, surprised and courageous and I still think they are words I would use to describe risky play. My level is an 8.