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
Name of Assessor
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
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.