Scéalta Blog: Risky play…. Indoors

Scéalta Blog: Risky play…. Indoors
By Máire Corbett
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Have you checked out our new programme, The 3 Ps, Play, Practice and Pedagogy on The Pedagogy Space of Early Childhood Ireland’s Learning Hub? If you’ve an interest in outdoor play, risky or adventurous play and how children learn through these experiences, you will really enjoy it.

The programme examines areas such as reflecting on risk, use of fire and tools and provides ideas and reflections so you can develop skills and confidence in giving children more opportunities for adventurous play, wherever you are on the journey of  supporting risk.

Looking at the content got me thinking about risky play indoors. Our minds tend to go to outdoor play when we think of challenging play, but children often spend a lot of time indoors, so have a think about how we can support children to experience challenging play in the indoor environment as well as outdoors.

Challenging experiences indoors
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We all know children love climbing. They love the thrill and the challenge. We have probably all seen the satisfaction and achievement the baby feels when she manages to get up on the sofa after attempting to reach it for a while. Or when the toddler can push a chair and climb on it to reach something they want to get their hands on. As well as being satisfying, these opportunities develop children’s spatial awareness, physical coordination and their confidence. Our job is to make sure that children can have these opportunities and to ensure that the surface beneath isn’t dangerous if they fall.

These experiences for climbing can be provided inside with ramps, steps and platforms. You can buy this type of equipment, or a good carpenter can build a sturdy piece of apparatus. If space permits, a climbing wall can be created in a suitable area, with crash mats underneath.

Loose parts and balance
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Loose parts can give children the opportunity to build structures that give them chances to experience balance without necessarily going very high. Having a good sense of balance is vital. It helps coordination and develops the vestibular system. Indeed, it is one of the fundamental movement skills, considered to be so important in supporting children to become active, healthy adults. If you have a set of large blocks, children can build see-saws, low platforms or balance bars that provide for them to be challenged as they build (you need to have good spatial awareness if you’re moving a short plank!) and then as they experiment with the structure they have created (if I stand on this, is it steady). For a refresher on fundamental movement skills, remember our short programme Kids Active is also on The Pedagogy Space of Early Childhood Ireland’s Learning Hub.

Everyday activities
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At mealtimes, what kind of cutlery and delph do children have? In the home area, are all the resources made of plastic? Using real cutlery and delph is important to give children a more authentic experience than plastic alone.  This interesting blog from The Curiosity Approach outlines how one setting introduced real tea sets to their home area, rather than the indestructible plastic. They describe how the educators showed children how to react if a piece got broken (stand back and call an adult) and how over time children remind each other to take care. This kind of risk assessment lays a really good foundation for children to manage other situations where they may encounter risk.

Do children have opportunities to be involved in preparing food? Empowering children to slice fruit or butter bread is giving them a sense of responsibility, developing an interest in food and also the skills they need for everyday life. Start with slicing softer foods like bananas or pears and progress to harder foods as children’s skill grows. Using scissors is another good skill to develop. Supervision is key, especially in the early stages and explaining to children about how to use these items correctly and safely.

Dens and hiding
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Some children love to hide, they experience a real thrill from not being seen (as they think) and escaping from the activity in a room. If there is a space in your room that you can hang a curtain (similar to the space for a washing machine or dishwasher under a countertop) that can be an ideal space for children to hide away. A large cardboard box can serve the same purpose.

This Aistear Síolta Practice Guide Tip Sheet on Risky Play says ‘The development of these skills is central to positive mental health and physical wellbeing. Without exposure to risky play, children can potentially develop fearful or reckless dispositions and may be unable to access risk.’ It really is important to give children the opportunities to develop their capabilities at each stage of their development.  We are supporting life skills when we empower children to risk assess and problem solve. These are skills that will stay with them through life.

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