Why Children Need Risk, Fear, and Excitement in Play and why adults’ fears put them at risk

Why Children Need Risk, Fear, and Excitement in Play and Why adults’ fears put them at risk


FEB 28, 2024

After Babel

Mariana Brussoni's essay, highlighted by Jon Haidt's preface, emphasizes the essential role of outdoor risky play in children's development, arguing that the trend towards hyper-protective parenting is paradoxically undermining children's safety and chances of success. Brussoni, with over two decades of experience in children’s development, injury prevention, and outdoor risky play research, advocates for a balanced approach to safety, encapsulated in the principle of keeping children "as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible."

The article outlines a generational shift in childhood experiences, noting a stark contrast between the unstructured outdoor play remembered fondly by adults born before the 1990s and the supervised, structured activities that characterize the childhood of those born afterwards. This shift, driven by intensive parenting styles that emerged in the 1980s, has led to a decrease in children's outdoor play and freedom, with significant time now devoted to academic pursuits and screen-based activities. Between 1975 and 2015, outdoor play among UK children decreased by 29.4%, while screen-based activities increased by 22.4%. In the U.S., the percentage of children playing outdoors daily dropped from 16% in 1997 to 10% by 2003.

Risky play, characterized by activities that involve physical risks, the pursuit of excitement, and the satisfaction of curiosity, is deemed crucial for children's physical and cognitive development. Such play allows children to push their boundaries, experiencing both thrill and fear, thereby gaining vital skills and overcoming anxieties. Brussoni argues that the decline in risky play, influenced by intensive parenting and misconceptions about safety, has had detrimental effects on children's development, including their mental health and cognitive skills.

To counteract these trends, Brussoni proposes three essential ingredients for reviving risky play and childhood freedom: time, space, and freedom. These include prioritizing daily outdoor playtime, ensuring access to stimulating play spaces, and allowing children the freedom to play as they choose. She also highlights the importance of managing adult fears and building community support to foster environments conducive to risky play.

The essay concludes with a call to action, urging parents and educators to prioritize play and freedom in children’s lives to ensure their thriving development. Brussoni's work, supported by her research and resources available at OutsidePlay.org, provides a compelling case for the benefits of risky play and the need for a cultural shift towards allowing children the freedom to explore, learn, and grow through play.

Source: "Why Children Need Risk, Fear, and Excitement in Play" by Mariana Brussoni, February 28, 2024. https://afterbabel.com/articles/why-children-need-risk-fear-and-exc...

Original Article


Prepared with the assistance of AI software

Views: 42


You need to be a member of School Leadership 2.0 to add comments!

Join School Leadership 2.0




School Leadership 2.0 is the premier virtual learning community for school leaders from around the globe.  Our community is a subscription based paid service ($19.95/year or only $1.99 per month for a trial membership)  which will provide school leaders with outstanding resources. Learn more about membership to this service by clicking one our links below.


Click HERE to subscribe as an individual.


Click HERE to learn about group membership (i.e. association, leadership teams)





© 2024   Created by William Brennan and Michael Keany   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service