Healthy childhood development through outdoor risky play: Navigating the balance with injury prevention

Offered by:
The Canadian Paediatric Society

Free play is essential for children’s development and for their physical, mental, and social health. Opportunities to engage in outdoor free play—and risky play in particular—have declined significantly in recent years, in part because safety measures have sought to prevent all play-related injuries rather than focusing on serious and fatal injuries. Risky play is defined by thrilling and exciting forms of free play that involve uncertainty of outcome and a possibility of physical injury. Proponents of risky play differentiate ‘risk’ from ‘hazard’ and seek to reframe perceived risk as an opportunity for situational evaluation and personal development. This statement weighs the burden of play-related injuries alongside the evidence in favour of risky play, including its benefits, risks, and nuances, which can vary depending on a child’s developmental stage, ability, and social and medical context. Approaches are offered to promote open, constructive discussions with families and organizations. Paediatricians are encouraged to think of outdoor risky play as one way to help prevent and manage common health problems such as obesity, anxiety, and behavioural issues.

Offered by:
The Canadian Paediatric Society

Free play is essential for children’s development and for their physical, mental, and social health. Opportunities to engage in outdoor free play—and risky play in particular—have declined significantly in recent years, in part because safety measures have sought to prevent all play-related injuries rather than focusing on serious and fatal injuries. Risky play is defined by thrilling and exciting forms of free play that involve uncertainty of outcome and a possibility of physical injury. Proponents of risky play differentiate ‘risk’ from ‘hazard’ and seek to reframe perceived risk as an opportunity for situational evaluation and personal development. This statement weighs the burden of play-related injuries alongside the evidence in favour of risky play, including its benefits, risks, and nuances, which can vary depending on a child’s developmental stage, ability, and social and medical context. Approaches are offered to promote open, constructive discussions with families and organizations. Paediatricians are encouraged to think of outdoor risky play as one way to help prevent and manage common health problems such as obesity, anxiety, and behavioural issues.