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Incorporate Safe Risks into Your Playtime with Climbing

October 21, 2019

We’ve mentioned that risky play—which incorporates safe risks relative to a child’s age, size, motor skills, and comfort level—is important to a child’s development. Safe risks allow a child to see their limits and regulate their emotions. But how can you make safe risks a part of your play time? 

One category of risky play is climbing to “great heights”. In our Play and Learn program, safe risks through climbing can look like placing a balance beam over large, flexible plastic mirrors on soft mats to give toddlers the impression of being high up and to give them the opportunity to overcome their fears.  

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!”

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 see the limits of what they can do safely.  

Climbing is also a unique physical activity that adds a fun element of exercise to playtime. It is a great way to learn gross motor 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. Gross motor activities like this strengthen major muscles and growing bones in your child’s body. 

We offer risky play opportunities like this at programs like Play and Learn and Gym Time. This activity is also easy to recreate at home using pillows and step stools.