Risky play was a massive part of the excitement for me going to Iceland. I was interested to see how practitioners deal with risky situations and how they manage risky play. Before going I knew it would be different but was unsure how different it would be. Would children be able to roam free in their surroundings without constantly being called back or told no don’t do that or would it be more like the UK where most people are afraid to allow children to climb trees or walk home alone from school.
I’m pleased to say Icelandic practitioners provide a healthy balance of giving children space to explore and move freely through their local environment and understanding when to step in. A very good example of this practice was seen at the beach with Krakkakot. Some children were eager to stand on a rock in the sea to experience the water going up and over the rock. If this had been me showing the Icelandic practitioners this environment, I would have allowed the children to stand on the rock but I would have been standing in between them holding each of their hands tightly!
I watched this with great interest wanting to see when the practitioner would step in. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the children were allowed to experience this on their own. The practitioner was close enough to help children if they fell in but far enough that the children were able to assess their own risk.
The children were able to do this very soon after the video, the waves became stronger and almost knocked them off the rock. The children looked a little shocked and then stepped back onto the beach. This was also the point that the practitioner stepped in to help them off the rock.
Another great example of risky play management was in the forest with Austurkor. Their explanation of how far the children can go was, “as long as the child can see an adult that’s ok”. My reaction to this was “wow they can go pretty far then!” However after discussing this with some of my fellow Play Iceland 2015 travellers they were told at the setting they visited, “as long as the children can hear us when we call or whistle that’s ok”
Key points I picked up from my time in Iceland was,
- to trust children in all areas of environment
- step back and allow them to lead their play and learning
- if a child falls over, do not rush to their side, as doing so can increase likelihood of child crying
It’s clear that in the UK we have a long way to go to trust that our children can and will be able to assess their own risk. I am confident that one step at a time we will get there.