Risk is an important part of children’s play. Allowing children to take risks develops their self-confidence, to plan, to solve problems, to engage their creativity, to be challenged and to use judgment. All of these skills are critical for children’s growth in social – emotional, executive functioning and cognitive skills.
Risk can include gross motor activities such as climbing on a jungle gym, using shovels in a dirt pile, building with large tree stumps or sensory activities such as touching the gooey insides of a pumpkin, walking in paint, or playing in the mud. It also includes allowing children to create using real tools such a hammer and nails, maybe even building a bridge to cross the creek to explore the other side!
The teacher is the guide who provides an environment in which safe risk can occur, monitors children’s efforts and allows the child to do the work instead of stepping with a “That’s not safe.” Yes, we need to manage the risk; we stay close but we allow the child to experience that joy of accomplishment or be able to determine how to do it differently the next time. “Risk-taking is an essential part of children’s play. Managing that risk is the key to providing opportunities that support growth and development and keep children safe from unreasonable risk and injury. The balancing of these two is vital for our children’s health and development. (Allen and Rapee, 2005 cited in Sanseter, E. and Kennair, L. 2011) We need to remember that clothes, hands and feet can be washed, bumps and bruises are a part of growing and risk taking allows children to build resiliency, persistence, proprioceptive skills, confidence, independence, wonder and curiosity.
In what ways do you encourage children to take risks to become problem-solvers, inventors, and resourceful individuals in your classroom?
Great resource for further information on the benefits of risk:
How do you add natural elements in the classroom? Share your ideas and pictures:
What are your additional thoughts about why it is critical that we add natural elements into the classroom?
“Not only do natural materials create a more visually appealing space, but they serve the purpose of fostering a connection to the natural world, which is especially important in more urban schools where exposure to nature is often quite limited. So not only do you want to switch out your plastics, but also offer actual items from nature as play materials, like pine cones, leaves, dried flower, tree slices, etc. for creative play and exploration. The more time children spend around these materials, the more comfortable they are with them and come to prefer them over the unsustainable, non-environmentally-friendly plastics.
Basic values are being built and shaped here, however subtle they might be. We need our next generation of students to have a deeper connection to and appreciation for the natural world so that they will help preserve it rather than continue to destroy it the way past and present generations (often unintentionally) have.”
UPDATED POST- includes a link to a letter to send home to families requesting loose parts
Loose ends engage children in thinking critically, creatively and holistically. They encourage students to make connections and their learning is strengthened through the hands-on exploration.
Students count, observe, predict, test ideas, draw conclusions, examine patterns, shapes, and sizes, compare and contrast, ask questions, summarize, and represent findings while playing with loose parts.
Loose parts play taps into students natural curiosity. It also provides a strong foundation for the thinking skills required for strong STEM learning.
Below is a letter that can be revised to meet your needs to send to parents requesting a variety of loose parts. What loose parts would you add to the list?
Letter to parents requesting loose parts for play
A group of teachers were sharing the other day all of the creative learning that is taking place during free-choice play centers in Kindergarten. The one aspect that was shared multiple times that stuck with me was that many students are transferring the skills from free-choice play centers, especially social skills, into their direct academic learning time.
For example, a student was building animals following a pattern with linking cubes in math centers and then in play centers, he and his friends built the castle from Frozen and polar bears from LEgos.
Other teachers noted that they have been working on sharing and as well as using polite words and asking before taking something from a friend during free-choice play centers. Teachers are noticing students using those same skills during literacy and math centers- something that was not noticed prior to the implementation of free-choice centers in Kindergarten.
Students are also starting to include a lot more writing in authentic ways in the free-choice centers such as writing valentine cards, grocery lists, and signs for structures in block play such as labeling the “museum” rooms or the Olympic events and making directional signs.
In what ways do your students transfer skills from free-choice centers to direct academic instuction?