When your child plays outdoors, they move more and sit less, especially when they are allowed to play in their neighbourhood without an adult directly supervising. This helps your child figure out how to get around, gain independence and spend more time playing with friends.

Play in natural environments can be especially beneficial because it is full of loose materials (e.g,. sand, sticks, water, mud) that your child can use to let their imagination and creativity shape play, as well as help them appreciate nature. 

Such play also develops environmental awareness, teaches navigation skills, and strengthens motor fitness and abilities.

The likelihood of serious injury resulting from play is low and the benefits of playing outside generally far outweigh the risks.

Hazard vs risk

Focus on managing hazards, while allowing your child to explore risks.

Hazard

An item or situation where the source of harm isn’t obvious to your child; the potential for injury is hidden, such as with a broken railing

Risk

A situation where your child can recognize and evaluate the challenge and decide on a course of action (e.g., climbing a tree).

Risky play

Risky play is defined as thrilling and exciting play where your child is uncertain of the outcome and can include the possibility of physical injury. Risky play promotes physical activity, social health and risk-management skills. 

Types of risky play include:

  • Play at height, speed, near dangerous elements, such as water or fire.
  • Play with potentially dangerous tools.
  • Rough-and-tumble play (e.g., play fighting).
  • Play where there’s the potential for disappearing or getting lost.

Risk changes over time as your child moves through developmental milestones and gains more experience with the world. What is risky at one age becomes no risk or minimal risk when your child is older.

Risky play can look different for different children, depending on their abilities and interests: getting “lost” for a toddler could be a hidey hole in some bushes, where an older child could wander the neighbourhood with friends.

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