Risk and Our Own Well-being

There are many pieces that can impact how we respond to risky play as it emerges. The time of day, the weather, the number of children involved, the kinds of play, the tones of children’s voices, whether it’s buggy under the canopy of trees, whether you’re feeling uncertain about a co-educator’s support — all of this and so much more can contribute to an educators response to risky play. 

Self-awareness, as in understanding what impacts your responses and your well-being, is an important piece in supporting risky play. 

As educators, we want to be able to consistently recognise the learning in the play that we are watching. We need to be aware of the kinds of play that provoke in us a knee-jerk reaction. We need to know which kinds of play bring up our big loud “No!”. For some educators, it might be tree climbing that feels scary, for others it might be running with sticks or throwing rocks. With time, thoughtfulness and the tools shared in this workshop, you can work through those big feelings and make an informed choice about different kinds of play. 

Once we have the tools and we’ve learned the strategies, it’s up to us to bring our most thoughtful and confident selves out to play with children each day. That means looking after ourselves so we feel capable, comfortable and sturdy in our understanding of managing risk. But what might feel easy to support one day, could feel harder when we are tired. Supporting children running with sticks might feel manageable in the morning, but nerve wracking in the afternoon. Helping children slide safely on ice might feel exhilarating one time, but may leave you feeling tense and snappy on another day when your toes are numb with cold. To readily and capably support all the ways play may unfold, educators need to take care of themselves too. 

Diana Clements joins us from the unceded territory of the Anishinaabek (Ojibwe, Pottowattami, and Odawa) Nation, what has come to be referred to by the English as Muskoka-Parry Sound. She has a background in Environmental Studies and Education. As a CNAC Facilitator and Founder of Parry Sound Forest School, Diana encounters all kinds of play as she supports children on the land. Here in an interview with CNAC’s Lara Purvis, Diana shares what she needs to feel ready and capable of positively supporting risky play as it unfolds each day in new and unique ways.

Reflective Sharing Prompt: Consider a time when you saw a child engaging in risky play and you felt scared or nervous. How did you respond? How did your own experiences or well-being contribute to your response? Would you change anything about your response today? Why? Remember there are no right or wrong answers, but rather a commitment to reflection.