Over the years, there has been a shift in thinking about play, and data suggests that children are playing outside less often. Children are more frequently spending time indoors, in programmed activities, and watching screens. This can mean decreased health and well-being.
Active play has positive effects for children. Although it can happen indoors or outdoors, children are more physically active during play outdoors. For example, children develop muscle strength, balance, risk-management skills, language, resilience, and problem-solving skills through this type of play. In order for children to reach their full mental, emotional, and intellectual potential, it is important for parents and caregivers to promote physical activity. During active play, children may take risks and there may be a chance of injury.
Risk may be thought of as a negative by parents, neighbours, caregivers, and community members. It is important to recognize the difference between risk and hazard when it comes to play.
A risk is the challenge or uncertainty in the environment that the child can recognize and learn to manage by setting their own limits and building their skills. An example of risk during play is a child choosing to go on the higher, faster slide. A hazard is a danger in the environment that could seriously injure a child and is beyond the child’s ability to recognize. An example of a hazard is allowing a child to play on a metal slide that is bent and has sharp edges. Examples of risk include allowing children to play in a park with varying heights, speeds, slopes, and materials.