happylittlegems play fact of the day:
Risky play shapes many physical, social, emotional and cognitive behaviours.
With the summer holidays upon us and endless days to fill it’s important we think about the types of play we let or encourage our children to do. There’s lots of research suggesting ‘risky’ play is so important for our children, whether it be climbing trees, rough and tumble, moving at high speed or playing with toy weapons. While sometimes (especially if you are a mum) you want to shout, “No, stop it!”, “Get down!” or “Be careful!” It’s important we let children experiment with these things with only a few basic rules in place. If you’re anything like me you may need to close your eyes or let their Dad or Uncle watch them, but don’t let your own adult worries stop them from having these important experiences.
happylittlegems top tips for ‘risky’ play:
• Let them climb trees. Being in nature and climbing a tree encourages both physical development and problem solving skills. Let them do it bare foot to further enhance their development allowing them to get a better foothold and strengthen those all important foot muscles. Teach them what a good climbing tree looks like, don’t help them (they must be able to do it independently) if they have the confidence to climb up they will have the confidence to climb down and teach them to pick thick branches to stand or swing on.
• Let them play rough and tumble. Rough and tumble play helps children learn self-control, compassion, boundaries and about their own abilities compared to other children. This type of aggressive play is so important, especially for boys, as it teaches them to bond with their peers, they learn about status and competition and it also helps them manage aggression. Just make sure they know not everyone likes it and they must listen if their playmate asks them to stop.
• Chasing games are vital. Chasing games exercise children's bodies as well develop social skills. Let them play, let them move at high speed, just make sure it’s outside!
• Allow children to play with toy weapons. Whether it be plastic guns, nerf guns, wooden swords or lightsabers, play weapons are ok. Boys’ fascination with weapons, researchers have concluded, is very normal and natural, and likely due to a combination of biology and socialisation. Boys who play with these toys may show aggression which is ok, it’s violence that’s not ok. One important rule is no hitting or shooting at heads!
• Running, swinging or just generally moving at top speed is good. This type of fast ‘risky’ play helps develop perceptual awareness and spatial orientation. Again, have simple rules like not near roads or helmets on if you’re on a bike or scooter.
So this summer, close your eyes and give your children the space to roam free... it’s good for them!