A girl climbs along a rope wall at a playground.

Canadian Paediatric Society recommends risky play for kids

The Canadian Paediatric Society has released a new recommendation regarding the importance of risky play in a child’s development—and the statement may surprise parents and caregivers. The recommendation says that unstructured play, particularly outdoor risky play, has a crucial role in the physical, mental, and social development of children. 

How do you define risky play?

Risky play is defined by “thrilling and exciting forms of free play that involve uncertainty of outcome and a possibility of physical injury.” It’s important to note that the report also states that injuries sustained during risky play are usually minor soft-tissue injuries, such as abrasions, contusions, and lacerations. This suggests that the benefits of risky play seem to outweigh the potential negative outcomes.

In fact, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society, “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.”

As parents, we all want to keep our children protected and safe. However, because the trend over the last several decades has seen more and more children spending time indoors and on screens, the new recommendation is that children should be encouraged to engage in outdoor play and only kept “as safe as necessary and not as safe as possible.”

That might mean simply staying alert while watching your kids engage in potentially dangerous activities, but avoiding the impulse to interfere. This type of general approach is described as “vigilant care” or the “lifeguard” approach to parenting.

Infographic: Be a Lifeguard Parent

Active play also has big benefits for kids

When it comes to play, research has also suggested that during the early years, when children engage in active play, their brains form new neural connections, and as they continue to play, those connections grow stronger. According to ActivePlay.ca, play has been found to stimulate a child’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development, and the benefits of active play extend beyond simply motor skills, physical literacy, and brain development. Children who play actively every day tend to be calmer and more engaged, and they also tend to eat and sleep better. 

The case for play is strong, and now the Canadian Paediatric Society is calling for parents to step out of potential comfort zones and encourage our children to engage in risky play. 

If you want to read more about risky play, you’ll find some great information here:

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