Children’s risky play and mental health benefits

Many children enjoy seeking out challenges in their play which can be beneficial for their mental health

Nov 29, 2019
What is risky play?  
Risky play is any thrilling and exciting activity that includes some risk of injury, such as climbing, jumping, balancing and sliding. Risk taking in play can give children opportunities to challenge themselves, test limits, overcome fear, and explore boundaries.

How does risk taking in play support children’s mental health?

Risk taking in play allows children to develop decision-making skills, extend their limits and learn new life skills. When taking risks, children sometimes succeed and sometimes do not. When things do not go to plan, children work out different ways of doing things in the future, which builds resilience. Children then develop a sense of motivation to accomplish goals and master new challenges.

How can Be You support risk taking in play?

Taking risks in play can build children’s resilience, which is an important protective factor in positive mental health.
There are a variety of Be You resources that can support educators to encourage children’s risk taking in play.
The Learning Resilience  domain and the Be You Resilience Fact Sheet can give you ideas about how to provide children with opportunities to develop resilience through risk taking in play. Always Be You is a suite of resources that can help you  embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, knowing and doing into your practice.
The Always Be You Action Charts can support you to incorporate risk taking in play to support positive mental health in your learning community. 
For example, the Give Children Time to Play Action Chart, from the Learning Resilience domain suggests.
  • Children manage best when they can do things their way, in their own time
  • Plan for children to take control over their play environment
  • Encourage children to take healthy risks
  • Know when to stand back and trust children.

To reflect on
  • How can you use Be You resources to facilitate children’s risk taking in play in your learning community?
  • What mental health benefits have you seen when children take risks in their play?