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Children benefit from appropriate risk-taking during outdoor play

Play is critical to children’s healthy development. Little and Wyver examine outdoor play with a focus on early childhood education and urban Western culture. The authors review a number of social and environmental factors that have influenced children’s outdoor play experiences in recent years (e.g., traffic, lack of space, other time demands, and parental fears). Little and Wyver discuss the importance of children’s experience with risk to healthy development, including children’s ability to develop and refine their motor skills and enjoy and gain confidence in being physically active. The authors also review literature related to the impacts of not providing children with opportunities to engage in challenging and risk-related experiences, including children’s engagement in inappropriate risk-taking and underdevelopment of decision-making skills related to making sound risk judgments. Little and Wyver discuss the inability of many early childhood educators to provide challenging and stimulating outdoor experiences to children due to restrictive regulations and a cultural emphasis on eliminating or minimizing physical risk. The authors review the difference between “hazard” and “risk” and emphasize the importance of considering risk within the larger context of children’s development, as well as the need to focus on identifying and fostering a risk balance that is appropriate for each individual child. In concluding their article, Little and Wyver articulate a model they developed that illustrates possible pathways from specific factors (e.g., poor outdoor environments or fear of litigation) to minimization of risk-taking and developmental outcomes, and emphasize the need to examine early childhood education policy and practice.

Little, H., & Wyver, S. (2008). Outdoor play - does avoiding the risks reduce the benefits? Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(2), 33-40. This study may be available in a library near you or can be purchased online through the publisher at:

C&NN Publications

As part of our ongoing efforts to build the movement, the Children & Nature Network has published these resources for leaders, organizers, and participants at the local, national, and international levels:

2010 C&NN Report
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Children and Nature 2009: A Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children to the Natural World
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C&NN Community Action Guide: Building the Children & Nature Movement from the Ground Up
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