JOEE 26 (3)

JOEE December 2023 Issue

The December 2023 issue of JOEE is a special issue titled, “Risky play and learning in the outdoors for educational, developmental, and health purposes”. 

It features 9 papers from international academics and researchers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Turkey that explore child and/or adolescent exposure to risk-taking behaviours in the outdoors. The research examines how the opportunities and access to risky learning spaces (both natural and human-made), are designed and used and whether this encourages children to play, learn, or develop cognitively, socially, or physically..

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Giving children permission for risky play: parental variables and parenting styles

Kadriye Akdemir (pic), Çagla Banko-Bal & Serap Sevimli-Celik

This article outlines the role of parenting styles and decision making as key variables in determining a parent’s appetite for risky play. Over 300 Turkish parents completed two questionnaires (Risky Play Attitude Scale and the Scale of Parenting Styles). Researchers found overprotective parenting was a critical predictor of risky play, particularly for both low-risk and high-risk play scenarios. They call for a better understanding of the triggers, fears, knowledge and skills regarding parenting and risky play.

Running the risk: The social, behavioral and environmental associations with positive risk in children’s play activities in outdoor playspaces

Janet Loebach (pic), Rachel Ramsden, Adina Cox, Karen Joyce and Mariana Brussoni

Through risky play, children examine their own capabilities and limits and the researchers suggest that there is low probability of serious harm. Their paper investigates factors which influenced risk-taking by examining young children’s play behaviours utilising a behaviour mapping framework. Play behaviours were examined in natural playspaces located in Santa Barbara (USA) and outdoor yards in Vancouver (Canada). They found that the physical environment was an integral component enabling risky play. As a natural corollary, play space design is tied to positive risk taking.

“We do it anyway”: Professional identities of teachers who enact risky play as a framework for Education Outdoors

Megan Zeni, Leyton Schnellert and Mariana Brussoni (pic)

This paper explores how the recent pandemic experience allowed Candian educators to take advantage of learning outdoors. Their three finding were: (1) make time and space for unstructured play; (2) student wellness, classroom management, and motivation for curricular learning are of pedagogical value; and (3) with supportive mentorship, teachers can develop the necessary skills and knowledge to enhance opportunities for risky play as a pedagogical approach to outdoor play and learning. The authors emphasise the value of risky play as a pedagogical practice and the value of understanding how teachers navigate systemic challenges in outdoor education.

Exploring Parent and Caregiver Perspectives of Children’s Risky Play in a Nature Park

Marion Sturges, Tonia Gray, Jaydene Barnes (pic) and Amanda Lloyd

Their study investigated the role of adults in supporting children’s play and learning in a high risk, bespoke Australian outdoor “nature play park.” Insights from parents and caregivers around the benefits and challenges of the park were analysed and they found strong support of children’s risky play at this park. The adults noted the park offered children nine opportunities for positive development across many areas.

Play opportunities through environmental design: a strategy for well-being

Damien Puddle 

This New Zealander academic argues for a rethinking of what constitutes play, understanding the value of risky play, and where this play can and should occur, including it’s importance to our well-being. This paper introduces a play case study that led to the development of a novel design approach – Play Opportunities Through Environmental Design. This approach looks to achieve creative city-wide play enablement and demonstrates how the strategies of government in New Zealand can help children have different kinds of play experiences that support children to manage their own risk taking.

Children’s access to outdoors in early childhood education and care centres in China during the COVID pandemic

Junjie Liu (pic), Shirley Wyver, Muhammad Chutiyami and Helen Little

This paper looks at the changes in children’s outdoor time, access to the outdoor space, and restrictions imposed on children’s outdoor play in China following Covid 19 restrictions and subsequent pedagogy changes. A series of ordinal regression analyses indicated that educators with a higher tolerance of risk in play were more likely to increase children’s time spent outdoors and access to outdoor space and impose fewer restrictions on children’s outdoor play during the pandemic. Their findings contribute to an ever-growing body of research on how external factors influence opportunities for children to play outdoors and provide directions for future professional development programs and risk-reframing interventions.

Comparison of quality and risky play opportunities of playgrounds in Germany.

Umay Hazar Deniz and Nilgün Cevher Kalburan (pic)

This paper compares the qualities and affordances of risky play at 16 playgrounds in Hamburg, Germany. Eight were urban parks or natural areas and eight were neighbourhood playgrounds in denser residential zones. Although both types of playgrounds offered experiences such as climbing, jumping, and balancing, they found that the green playgrounds typically offered a broader range of affordances for risky play opportunities. Deniz and Kalburan argue for the need to prioritise nature-oriented and risk-enabling playgrounds when considering playground design.

Nature play with children under three: a case study of educator risk taking.

Katie Vander Donk

This study concentrates on the professional risk-taking educators engaged in when they execute pedagogical and practice changes. The study was undertaken at one urban Australian early learning service which enabled and prioritised regular connection with nature opportunities for infants and toddlers. The article unpacks the theories that influenced collective thinking and informed changes in teaching practice. Furthermore, the complexities of intersecting nature play, place-based pedagogies, education for sustainability, and Indigenous perspectives are examined in relation to infants and toddlers.

An infant-toddler outdoor risky play practices in an early childhood centre in Australia

Gloria Quinones

The article outlines a four-month research study with infant-toddlers aimed at exploring how the outdoor environment enables and constrains infants’ risky play practices. The findings show that an Infant-toddler’s agentic capacities for risky play involve relating by observing peers and risky doings by slowing down on the slide. The professional implications for early childhood educators is that encouragement and support from educators, alongside the provision of a vibrant outdoor environment are key ingredients for risk-taking.

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