“Increasingly, I find myself bristling when I hear folks talk about “risky play,” even when it’s framed positively. From my experience, this sort of play is objectively not risky, in the sense that those activities like swinging or climbing or playing with long sticks, those things that tend to wear the label of “risky” are more properly viewed as “safety play,” because that’s exactly what the kids are doing: practicing keeping themselves and others safe. It’s almost as if they are engaging in their own, self-correcting safety drills.”

I’ve recently been trying, futilely, to promote the term ‘CHALLENGING’ rather than ‘risky’. You’ll appreciate that the the c-word has a double meaning, children are challenging themselves, and adult frettiness is being challenged.

They ARE engaging in their own self correcting activity. I teach playworkers about the ‘edge-of-chaos’ I’ve taken to using hyphens because people confuse it with ‘nearly chaos’. It’s not: edge-of-chaos is an entirely different thing. When I used to do mountain biking it was about finding my personal edge-of-chaos, my ‘flow state’. We tune to it. Too much and it’s scary, not enough and its boring.

Edge-of-chaos exists in all complex systems, like a group of kids on a playground for example, both as a group and for each child.

I loved “catastrophic imaginations.”

Spot on.

Jessica Garner in Alberta said, brilliantly: “”a sense that the world is full of unperceived dangers that only the all-knowing adults can see”

Are you familiar with the His Dark Materials series? This reminds me of the spectres… creatures of fear that only adults can see. Children are completely unaware and unaffected. They only perceive the danger of spectres if adults are around.””

“creatures of fear that only adults can see“.




  1. Pingback: Teacher Tom: Eleven Things to Say Instead of “Be Careful” | PUBLIC INTEREST PLAY

I love comments, all comments…

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s