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P L AY N O T E S November 2006Risk andchallenge forchildren from0–5 yearsIf Risk can be defined as ‘toexpose to danger, a dangerouselement or hazard’ andChallenge as something that is‘demanding or stimulating’,why are both vital elements ofeffective provision outdoors?Babies and very young children deserve a learning Children, however, do not want to be met withenvironment that enables them to take suitable risks daunting experiences outdoors! Allow activities thatand manage the challenges they present to enable they are familiar and comfortable with, as well asthem to grow up into competent, confident adults. opportunities to try out new skills and to practiseChildren able to practise and acquire skills such as acquired ones.digging, climbing and finding their own way aroundwill grow in confidence and develop their Who sets risks and challenges?understanding of themselves, their world and theirown abilities. This Playnotes offers inspiration and Lead by example, providing ideas for activities andencouragement in developing ideas that will support developing a positive climate where children canchildren’s ability to manage risk and challenge. take up challenges when they are ready and at theirFurther support can be found in the November 06 own pace, with as much support as they need.Groundnotes: Site security and Safety. Work to what is developmentally appropriate ratherRoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of than activities determined by age. Children canAccidents) believes that exposure to acceptable risk learn from each other and may even set each othershould be encouraged to avoid children seeking the challenges which may or may not be appropriate.thrill of risk elsewhere in unsupervised situations. Enable your children to move about and useThey are also quite clear that children’s contact with resources as much as possible without intervention.unnecessary risk should be An inclusive environment will allowavoided: health and safety children with a disability to beprocedures must be followed challenged too. Beand good hygiene habits prepared to acceptfostered. inevitable mishaps and learn from them.Risks and challenges are positiveoutdoor necessities. An outdoor Fill your outdoors withenvironment that is safe enough opportunities for childrenis not one devoid of risks and to enjoy the space,challenges. freedom and natural challenges it provides. This resource was originally created as part of the Early Years Outdoors membership scheme from Learning through Landscapes. To find out more about membership call 01962 845 811 or visit www.ltl.org.uk RISK AND CHALLENGE LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES – 01962 845811
P L AY N O T E SBe clear that risk is acceptable can go no nearer. The children love to sit and bake ‘dampers’ (flour, milk and water) on sticks of aAs with any policy and procedure your Health and suitable length that they collected earlier, with 2Safety policy should be easily available for parents to adults at the fire.read.Does it contain a set of clear safety rules?Find out how people view activities that take placeoutside: observe and ask children, staff and parentstoo.How do people feel about the risks incorporated intoyour outdoor space?Monitor how parents feel and inform them of goodpractise through meetings, displays, open days andaccess to their children’s work. Consider promotingyour safety rules during Child Safety Week which isorganised by CAPT (see Resources) and held annuallyat the end of June. You can help allay parents’ fearsby explaining their particular child’s needs. Parentsthat can openly question and remark on safety issueswill benefit from your positive attitude to children’sability to learn and develop skills of self-reliance.Risk assess your outdoors Physical play and exploration Crates, logs and tyres are all useful items outdoors, asUse a risk assessment procedure to look closely at well as specialist equipment such as A frames, blocks,your whole outdoor space and the existing features. steps and planks. Expect the children to try out newSee Resources for downloadable advice. Examine ways to use familiar equipment and supportyour space carefully to identify any potential for opportunities for experimentation.harm to occur to children or adults. Talking with Some members have had experiences of beingother adults using the space is crucial to gain other challenged by Health and Safety Inspectors aboutperceptions of risk that you may have overlooked. these resources. Our advice is to be well aware ofCheck the accident record book and look how these items are used byfor repeated incidents involving specific children and to support themareas or pieces of equipment. in their effective, safe use.Think about the different users of your Rules you create will bespace and how they might be affected: a determined by the age andchild who knows the layout and procedures interests of the children butmay be at less risk than a younger or new establishing a policy of howchild. Use your judgement to decide and when these resources arewhether the existing safety measures are used will support goodadequate or whether more should be done practise. Some settingsto reduce the risk. Remember that the determine a height limit forbenefits of an experience will often be stacking crates or climbinggreater than the risk of harm. them. Allowing their use encourages children toSpecific areas to consider explore and deal with safety issues in a supervisedFire and heat environment. A ‘safe enough’Fire is a fascinating element and children environment will have soft orbenefit from clear sensible warnings and yielding surfaces for childrenadvice on its use. Perhaps you can talk landing from jumps orthrough with your staff how best to provide somersaults; rules for theopportunities outside for your children to number of children a piece ofexperience fire? New Ark Playgroup in equipment can withstand;Peterborough have a designated fire area. agreed ways to useThis is a hard standing area with a container equipment; and explanations– the top 1/3 of a metal dustbin (see picture or examples of safety byon page 1). They have benches or logs a safe adults as and whendistance from it and children are able to sit appropriate.on these after they have understood they RISK AND CHALLENGE GROUNDS FOR LEARNING – 01786 445922
P L AY N O T E SPractical life skills and use of tools ● Let them try the activity with your support.Store and organise tools using labels and pictures so ● Gradually allow as much independence as thethey can be found and used safely. Learning skills children can manage safely.that require the use of tools can be exasperating for ● If some activities are just for adults then give thechildren if they are given ‘safe’, blunt, children’s children clear reasons for this. versions. Finding slightly smaller versions of real Assess and reassess behaviour tools can result in satisfied learning when supported Evaluating behaviour can be fun and parents will by attentive adults. appreciate learning about what their child has done Remind children to watch and how you have enabled them to learn. The carefully what their hands outdoors is a great place for child-led investigations are doing when they use and play. Knowledgeable adults provide appropriate tools. Think carefully opportunities and resources, letting the children’s about the activity and needs set the pace with adult and child-led activities. where best to site it. Decisions about where staff will be and how many Woodwork, sewing and challenging activities are going on will require acraft activities will need to be in clear view of flexible approach. Children can learn that risk andwatchful adults with the appropriate amount of challenges are exciting, necessary and important butsupport for the activity and children using them. require thinking through first and appropriate resources. Use group times to reinforce positiveEnable messages so children can grow in confidence and satisfaction - not just by recalling the activity but alsoStep by step coaching of through praise when the ground rules arenew skills is necessary remembered.and a Tell, Show, Doapproach as advocated When is risk or challenge unsafe?by Jennie Lindon works When an activity is beyond an individual child’swell. Offer help and do not always insist on children mobility skills or level of understanding there isworking out how to use resources for themselves potential for a risk orwhen there is a real safety issue. Firm suggestions can challenge to becomebe given in simple, explicit and respectful ways. a genuine hazard orWords of encouragement and constructive feedback danger. Knowledgewhich acknowledges a child’s efforts help them to of individuals ispersevere and compliments can be used to confirm crucial since allthings they have done well. children have different capabilities and an acceptable risk for one may become an unacceptable hazard for another. Satisfy yourself that: ● All children can reach play materials or equipment without having to stretch or clamber in an unsafe way. ● The environment is organised to provide the opportunity to make choices between activities. ● Activities are available at the right level and aPreparing children to acquire new skills requires an child can move easily in order to complete a task.awareness of what these skills involve, so be ready tobreak a task down into simple steps and explain why All practitioners should be aware of their Health andyou choose to work in a particular way. Be specific Safety procedures and have basic first aid as part ofabout safety rules before the children engage in a their responsibilities. Recording incidents isnew activity. necessary as is a reliable system for ensuring communication with individual parents of a child● Tell the children what you are going to do.● Let children watch you as you explain the safety that has been hurt, or has been affected by an aspects. accident that happened to someone else. Keeping● Answer questions and show pictures or written parents informed will help strengthen your instructions for the activity, sharing tips such as relationship with them and can help a particularly how to move around with tools and how to care protective parent to trust that their child will be safe for and store them. in your care. RISK AND CHALLENGE LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES – www.ltl.org.uk
P L AY N O T E STurn negatives into positives ● Keep calm if an accident happens or nearly happens, don’t add to a drama!Is your outdoor area a negative or a positive ● Take enough time- a measured response considersexperience for children? Have a look around to see the real level of risk.what the children are able to do outdoors. What do ● Use a ‘no blame’ approach – treat incidents asyour children see as a risk? Do they have any worries mistakes that children can learn by.about risks other children or adults take? Respect and ● Comfort a child if they are upset and listen to themlisten to their views and take the time to talk about if they want to talk.activities that have caused them to worry. ● Reflect on any accidents in future planning whereThink about what stages of development your appropriate.children are at, their interests and preferences. Offeropportunities that are Unfortunate as accidents are, they do provideappropriate to their children with opportunities for positive life lessons.stage of development. Use a problem solving approach whenever possibleA toddler may want to so children learn from their experiences. Poseclimb independently questions to get the children to think carefully aboutwhile an older child a challenge and how it can be met safely. Discusslikes to swing above solutions using a plan, do, review approach.the ground. Watch Adults need to takeyour children and time with children whowhat they are now for instance happilyable to do. Praise them and confidently tryand allow them to stacking crates toopractice their new high or jumping ontoskills, offering new cluttered surfaces.stimuli for them to test Listening to children’sthese skills in other ways. When a child behaves reasoning andinappropriately look at what skill they may be trying explaining what elseto achieve. Are they doing this for fun, or are they needs to be consideredtrying to test their strength or wit? will ensure real progress for the child,Keeping calm who will learn far moreAccidents will happen and the way that you deal through respect than through banning behaviour.with them can provide positive lessons to children. Very young children need things explained inBe careful about forecasting accidents as it can put context as they cannot yet apply these concepts insome children off a task and undermine your other situations. Be prepared to clarify each safetycredibility with more confident ones if the accident issue calmly and simply as often as it arises. Thesedoes not occur. Getting the children to think for children are not being naughty, they just need tothemselves by asking questions will help them to feel learn from a patient teacher.that their ideas count and that their views arerespected. A ‘too safe’ environment may be the cause of accidents if a child has no awareness of risk or has● Point out dangers in simple terms as appropriate not developed the ability to rise to challenges. and show how they can be avoided. The role of the practitioner is to enable them to do● State non-negotiable issues clearly, explaining this safely, not to stop them, by providing adult responsibilities simply. appropriate activities.Further resources Books and other publications Websites Too safe for their own good, Jennie Lindon, Royal Society for the Prevention ofEarly Years Outdoors Accidentspublications National Children’s Bureau, ISBN 1 900990 97 0. This excellent book www.rospa.comGroundnotes: Security and Safety, offers greater depth on this topic.November 2006. More advice on DVD The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT).achieving a safe environment. The Rising Sun Woodland Pre School A range of booklets and fact sheets about Project. A DVD recounting theAdvice sheet:Risk assessment. staying safe and coping with the experiences of nursery childrenAvailable to download from the consequences of incidents.www.capt.org.uk exploring their local woodland.Member Services pages of our Managing risk in play provision, a position Available from Sightlines Initiativewebsite at www.ltl.org.uk or call statement from Play Safety Forum. Available www.sightlines-initiative.comthe Advice line on 01962 845811. to download from www.ncb.org.ukLearning through Landscapes would like to thank the following settings for sharing their ideas and supplying images for publication:The New Ark Playgroup, Peterborough; The Coombes School, Arborfield; Bilston Nursery, West Midlands; Glebe House, Kent;Ethelred, London; Wingate Early Years Nursery and Mill Hill Nursery. RISK AND CHALLENGE GROUNDS FOR LEARNING – www.gflscotland.org.uk