Adventures in Risky Play: What is Your Yes?

January 11, 2021 - 4 minutes read

By Rusty Keeler

As an early childhood professional, I’ve always been an advocate for play and its many benefits.  I’ve come to really appreciate the value of nature and children spending time outdoors.  Over the years, I’ve learned about the importance of allowing children to make choices, to get messy and to take risks.  I’ve had many conversations with other early childhood professionals around these topics, but nothing has brought it all together for me like this book!  In all honesty, this book is just what I needed right now, as we are in the midst of a global pandemic with added stressors in almost all aspects of our lives.   After reading this book, I feel more inspired than ever to provide children with the deep play experiences that they deserve.

In Part 1 of this book, Rusty Keeler explores the importance of play while also prompting us to reflect on ways in which we may be unintentionally hindering children’s play.  He takes a deep dive into the topic of risky play and why it is essential for children to have these “on the edge” types of experiences. There are so many benefits (but I will let you read to find out)!  More importantly, he helps us explore our own feelings, fears and challenges around offering these risky play experiences for children.

In Part 2, he moves beyond the benefits of risky play and gives us tools that help us to move forward with intention and confidence in finding ways to say “yes” to risky play.  He teaches us how to complete a very thoughtful risk-benefit analysis that allows us to carefully consider all of the safety issues, as well as the ways in which children could benefit from the opportunity.  You are sure to walk away feeling more empowered to say YES (and to be able to articulate the reasons behind your choices to families, colleagues, licensing representatives, etc.)!

In Part 3, we are reminded that much of what we worry about and eliminate for young children are actually things that we want for them!  We are presented with a variety of examples and beautiful photographs from programs that found ways to say, “YES” to things like loose parts, rough and tumble play, hiding spots, fire, water, mud, bare feet, sticks, tree climbing, tools, animals and more.

In Part 4, Rusty Keeler takes us on a grand tour of his favorite play spots on this planet!  Get ready to be inspired as you get a glimpse into several nature schools, adventure playgrounds and outdoor play spaces put together by adults that truly value play and have worked hard to create environments that communicate that message.

I highly recommend this book whether you are new to this idea of “risky play” or just want to feel more confident about your desire and choice to offer these types of experiences for young children.  This book weaves together the research, opportunities for reflection, and real-life examples that are sure to leave you feeling more inspired and empowered!

Reviewed by: Anna Owen

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