“The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves”. -Ronald Dahl

Now that we have discussed the emotional growth that children experience as they gain a sense of self-efficacy, we would like to further discuss how this applies to the physical realm and “risky play”. The following is a partial summary of the presentation given by Sally-Ann Defriez, OTR/L during our online community education seminar entitled “Guided Risk Taking for Physical Development” and includes additional thoughts from GHC and the online resources listed at the end of the article:

When we discuss “risky play”, we are referring to play that includes components such as great heights, high speed, dangerous tools, rough and tumble play, or the possibility of getting lost. As caregivers we often worry about our children becoming injured. After all, it is our job to protect our children from harm, not encourage “risky” behavior, right? If we are overly fearful and cautious, however, we may be restricting opportunities for developmental growth and health advantages. “Risky play” is a powerful means for our children to learn cause and effect through direct experience, to build confidence, and to experience the sensory input that will facilitate physical development. This type of play appears to be diminishing in our culture. Some would suggest the decline of risky play poses a threat to healthy child development.

We fully acknowledge and support that physical risk-taking will look different for each family and child, and obviously do not support caregivers engaging in activities that contradict your parental instincts. What we would like to encourage is considering the ways you could support your child to take more physical risks, starting in small increments, at your current comfort level. For example, adjust one small aspect of a familiar activity at a time: e.g. the tools you permit them to use, the height at which an activity is set, the distance you allow them to be from you, the speed of a movement, etc. As always, follow your child’s interests and their lead but don’t forget that we ALWAYS give the grown ups permission to have fun too. Maybe you and your child can experience the novelty and risk of an activity that is new and interesting to both of you! After all, out children are our best teachers.

For specific ideas and activities to support guided risk-taking here are some articles we like:


If you have questions about how to apply these principals to children of differing abilities let us know. We would love to follow up with a specific article geared toward risk-taking with special populations of children.