The importance of risk taking in play

The importance of risk taking in play

A great part of what an indoor play provider does is spend time doing Risk Assessments and de-risking the play environment to make it is safe as possible for our customers in what has now become a risk adverse society. Not only must the environment be safe from sharp objects, trip hazards, rips and tears in the play equipment, hot drinks, and food allergens, but also germ free. So we spend hundreds of hours a week across our centres cleaning, cleaning and cleaning some more.

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 But are we doing more damage than good? Maybe. It is rare to see children these days with a broken bone and the everyday playground bumps and bruises – mainly caused from children colliding – in our environment calls for an incident report. Why? Because play providers are in fear of litigation in the event of even minor scrapes, also prompted by the increase in ambulance chasing law firms. So they increasingly we err on the side of caution, investing heavily in impact-absorbing surfaces and equipment that rigorously meets safety standards but the downside is if it is too safe it can lack challenge and impede real play value.

 Experts say an element of risk is an important part of a child’s development.  At real play, children are in charge, instinctively making hundreds of decisions as they assess and determine the levels of risk they want to take, physically, emotionally and socially: mastering, day by day, an increasing repertoire of skills, adding to their bank of experience. But modern worries and anxieties has led to a risk-averse culture that finds expression in overbearing health and safety policies which fail to weigh the benefits of a given activity against the risks involved. Surely a few bumps and bruises through life will help a child learn to take calculated risks.

 As a parent myself I am guilty of all the above. My children have never broken bones but dare I say they also can’t climb a tree. They have been swaddled in cotton wool and protected from every danger I can imagine, which is probably why I had to go upstairs and remove a spider which prompted me to write this blog.

Doing some research I came across an interesting article which you might want to read which points to a different kind of playground:

The Overprotected Kid: A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution. By Hanna Rosin – March 19, 2014”


Parents of two amazing teens, entrepreneurs and creators of Eddie Catz. Trying to juggle parenthood and work and be sufficiently cool not to be "de-friended" by our kids on social media. Can mostly be found at Eddie Catz HQ. Side jobs include delivering the bouncy castle, fetching helium cannisters, facepainting, toilet unblocking and lightbulb changing.

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