Play Ideas

Risky Play For Kids: Add Safe Risks into Your Playtime with Climbing

October 11, 2022
Preschool kids play with building bricks in while sitting on floor in daycare

Risky play refers to play that incorporates safe risks relative to a child’s age, size, motor skills, and comfort level. Safe risks allow children to learn their limits, boundaries and fears, challenge their abilities, and regulate their emotions.

One type of risky play is climbing. As babies start to move around and explore their bodies, they may also start to try climbing stairs or onto a foot stool. Toddlers and preschoolers will begin to explore climbing onto trees, large rocks and play structures.

Toddler climbs onto balance beam while looking down at mirror underneath.

In our Play and Learn program, we climbed a balance beam that was over a large, flexible plastic mirror to give children the impression of being high up (pictured above) and to give them the opportunity to overcome their fears while challenging their abilities.

Supporting Risky Play

Mom stands near toddler as they climb a play structure for risky play.

Here are some ways you can support learning through safe risk-taking:

  1. Stay nearby and let your child know that you’re there if they need you.
  2. Offer positive encouragement.
  3. If they seem a bit nervous, help them problem-solve—”What will help you cross the beam?” This will help them be in control of their needs.
  4. Narrate the skills they are learning. For example: “You slid across the beam sideways!”

Why Climb?

Toddler balances across the gap between a foot stool and table.

Climbing gives children the thrilling feeling of “I did it!” It offers them a bird’s-eye view of their environment and allows them to understand the limits of what they can do safely.

Climbing is a great way to learn and develop large muscle skills, which are useful not only for sports and playground activities, but also for everyday activities like getting dressed, getting into and out of a car, and getting on and off a bus.

We offer risky play opportunities like this at programs like Play and Learn and Drop-In.

Climb at Home: Easy play ideas to try at home

Pillow Pile

Seven pillows piled on the floor for babies and toddlers to climb and try risky play at home.

Gather your cushions and pillows and make a pile of pillows to climb! This is great for babies who love to move. You can also rearrange the pile into a path so they can climb over pillows as they crawl through the room.

Step UP and Draw!

Two photos of a preschool aged child standing on a step stool while colouring on paper taped to the wall in front of them.

You can add a little climbing to your painting and drawing by using a step stool! This kind of activity exercises your child’s large muscle skills, practices balance, and encourages children to reach high and move their arms in a wide range of motions.

Walking in Your Neighbourhood

Photo 1: Mom holds child’s arm as child climbs a tree. Photo 2: four children outside, two children standing on the grass and two children standing on a log.

Curbs, hills, large rocks, trees and benches are some of the things you might see on a walk around your neighbourhood. Try climbing onto these as part of your walk! Stay close or help support your child as they climb.

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