Introduction to Risky Play

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Course Description:

This Introduction to Risky Play shares quality practices for understanding and managing risk in outdoor play settings. The workshop lessons include:

  • Lesson 1: Understanding Risky Play —What is it and why does it matter?
    Children are drawn to and seek out risky experiences. Why is it so important? This section explores the value of different kinds of risky play.
  • Lesson 2: Risk — It’s personal!
    Our response to risk is rooted in our history, experiences, learning and reflection! Understanding our own responses and how they’re subjective, fluid and reframable contributes to thoughtful decisions rooted in quality practice.
  • Lesson 3: Quality Practices in Risky Play — The Tools
    Quality practice includes a reflective, thorough and regularly updated Risk-Benefit Assessment (RBA) process, alongside trusting and communicative relationships. Learn how to develop strong Site and Activity Risk-Benefit Assessments, share a thorough and clear Informed Consent form and perform Dynamic Risk-Benefit Assessments when needed.
  • Lesson 4: Quality Practices in Risky Play — Strategies
    Through modelling thoughtful risk assessment, allowing gradual release and co-creating boundaries with children, educators build trusting and communicative relationships which will hold space for rich learning in risky play. This section shares strong, effective and collaborative strategies for supporting children on the land as risky play emerges.
  • Lesson 5: Risky Play and the Law
    You have a duty of care as an educator, and you’ll establish Standards of Care in the experiences you offer children. Hear from a lawyer and insurance underwriter on how to maintain a safer program for yourself and staff.
  • Lesson 6: Advocate and Communicate
    Find the language for sharing your understanding and approach to risk in outdoor learning environments, and develop strategies for building education and awareness.

This workshop approaches learning through: 

  • Theory
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Stories
  • Reflective sharing prompts
  • Resource lists


One of the ways to grow in supporting risky play is to commit to learning, reflect on your choices, consider your responses, and discuss what you might like to change or try next time. A community of practice or trusted colleagues are invaluable in this process. This workshop holds space for this reflection and self-assessment through Reflective Sharing Prompts. You may choose to write, share with a colleague or perhaps you’ll draw. We encourage you to engage genuinely and whole-heartedly in this process. 

A note about this workshop:

The documents and tools shared in this course were created through a Community of Practice which includes many Forest and Nature Schools across Canada, partnership organizations and legal counsel. This course does not constitute legal advice but rather offers strategies, tools and processes to learn more about supporting risky play on the land. 

This course was developed in Canada and takes applicable Canadian laws into account. Although it attempts to address the spirit of the law as it applies across the country, each jurisdiction has legislation that must be considered when you craft your policies and procedures. We recommend that you seek legal advice in your jurisdiction relating to the applicable standards for childcare and outdoor play.

Some of the resources in this document are sourced from The Risk-Benefit Assessment Toolkit which was created as an open source resource. Be aware that its legal review only applied to the original source document, and modifying or adapting any forms or policies may affect their legal validity. We recommend you seek legal advice relating to laws that affect the provision of outdoor play in your jurisdiction.

Materials needed:

  • A notebook
  • Pens and/or markers
  • Step outside!