The 50 adventures in this book will inspire you to embrace risk as an integral part of children's play, both in EYFS settings and in the home. With advice on best practice for managing risk safely, this book shows the potential learning possibilities for young children taking developmentally appropriate risks. It is very much about emotional experiences, as well as nurturing physical and cognitive development. There are four sections: creating, experimenting, exploring and experiencing. These sections cover topics ranging from kitchen and campfire activities, using tools and equipment, physical challenges, expedition ideas and many more. Each comprehensive activity has an introduction, a list of what you will need, guidance on the activity itself, what your role may be, any points to watch out for and the learning possibilities on offer. 65, A4 pages.
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As is suggested in the title, one of the ‘50’ series published by Lawrence Educational, this book aims to encourage practitioners to support children’s adventurous and ‘risky play’. From the start, the authors ask us to consider the risks we are putting in front of children – this is not to say, ‘don’t do it’ but to impress upon us the importance of rigorous and robust risk assessment. Their point is that if we can acknowledge what ‘might happen’; and consider which risks are ‘developmentally appropriate’ we are able to manage those risks and plan to keep children safe.
The risk assessment process starts with this acknowledgement and understanding from the adults leading the activity. Adults need to proactively manage the risk from the beginning. The authors advise that adults start with activities within their own comfort zone – they advise against suddenly planning an afternoon using woodwork tools or toasting marshmallows around a fire! They suggest that staff start ‘small’ – there should be a series of learner activities that build up to a bigger event.
The authors encourage staff to manage their own expectations and anxieties and to give children the appropriate support to enable them to succeed – they urge staff to ‘let them try’.
The authors make it clear that it is not necessary for staff to make choices that reduce every aspect of risk for children. Throughout the book we are reminded that life is full of risks, adults learn to recognise and manage them. We should teach children the skills to help them be able to recognise and manage risks for themselves, in a way that they feel confident. We are also reminded that risky play is not only about physical risk but also about emotional risk for children; therefore, activities involving trust and sharing are equally valid.
Throughout the book there is a clear guiding principle, this is referred to as ‘the 3 As’. The 3 As are:
· Adults need to be sensitive, confident and attentive
· There should be ‘Availability’ – staff need to make sure that there are always appropriate resources and learning experiences available
· Staff should take children’s Age into consideration and should ask themselves ‘am I providing for all ages and developmental stages?’
The presentation of the book makes for easy reading. Pages are printed on thick paper, on one side only and so are very user friendly. There are exemplifications of the ‘usual’ activities that one might associate with risky play, such as cooking or creating a builders’ ‘yard’ in the garden. Additionally, there are descriptions and planning for more ambitious activities such as making ‘dry slides’ on a shallow slope out of flattened cardboard boxes. With every activity plan, there are question prompts encouraging staff to ask children challenging questions to help them see the possibilities and potential in each activity. The authors reassure staff throughout the book encouraging them to be ambitious whilst still keeping children safe.
I enjoyed the book, and as an experienced teacher I was reminded of things I had forgotten and there were things I hadn’t thought of (stuck in my ways!). For a new practitioner, needing new guidance and support, the information is all there to help you plan and develop activities seeing all the potential learning opportunities. Finally, for a whole staff team training session, the book would make an excellent basis for a cross-provision review and re-evaluation of what you were doing to help children develop in risky play.