Risky play, adventure play, imaginative play or whatever you want to call it is a topic parents are talking about. Encouraging kids to take risks and test their abilities has become the new trend to counter the “helicopter parenting” we have seen in the past. Kids are now being encouraged to climb, use tools (see why I let my own 5 year old use real tools and knives instead of pretend ones HERE), and take more risks.

Summer is a perfect opportunity to encourage your children to go out and explore! The most important thing with risky play is to let the child lead and show you how they will use the items. Don’t tell them how to use the materials provided. I promise you will be amazed by what they come up with given the opportunity.

The List:

  1. Pocket knife – of course depending on their age you will have to supervise this one but take this opportunity to teach them about how to use it properly. Cut away from their body, fold it down properly, don’t walk or run with it open. This is your chance to teach them how to use a knife the right way to cut ropes, whittle a stick, or carve their name into firewood.
  2. Rope – This can be used for fort making, imagination play, and more.

    Building a fort in the forest is the best way to spend the afternoon.
  3. Containers – Various sizes of containers (save old yogurt ones, ice cream buckets or hit up the Dollar Store before you go) are great for stacking, collecting things, and carrying water.
  4. Magnifying Glass – What better way to see that bug’s antennae or look at a leaf up close. You can get great ones from Education Station that are bigger and perfect for little hands.
  5. Tarp – You can get these at the Dollar Store now! They will be very useful for making forts, putting on the ground to sit on and for collecting things they find in nature so it doesn’t have to come into your tent or trailer.
  6. Duct Tape – you never know when you could use some duct tape!
  7. Notebook – Whether it is used to write or draw what they find or it is used to make paper airplanes with secret spy codes written on them, paper is always useful in imaginative play.
  8. Paint – You are outside so this is a perfect time to get messy! Paint rocks, paper, leaves or whatever they find! The less direction the better.

    Bring out the paint and don’t worry about the mess!
  9. Elastics – Show them how to shoot them, make a sling shot, bunch things together, or wrap around twigs. You will be amazed at how often these will be used.

    Bunching sticks together. Not sure why but he sure loved it!
  10. A Net – Useful for catching bugs, scooping things out of the lake, or transporting things around the campsite.

You gave them the stuff now what?

These are just ideas to get them started! Use things you find to encourage risky play. Make an obstacle course using fallen trees and stumps while camping. Climb a tree. Look for interesting rocks and start a collection. Let them ride their bikes further than you would usually let them. Use sticks they find as a sword or to build a fort. By encouraging them to take risks they are gaining confidence that they can do it. The bonus for you is there will be no “Mom guilt” when you sit in your lawn chair and let them play. Maybe you can even get to that book you have been meaning to read since they were newborns.

What are your kids’ favourite “Risky Play” activity? We would love to hear and get some ideas from you!

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