Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors

March 27, 2016

Exploring Risk in Play

At the moment, I’m providing a lovely Family Engagement project at two local primary schools in Cardiff. The aim of the project is to encourage parents and children to come together after school, and have an opportunity to play and be creative together.

We’ve a had a few weeks together now and, as I get to know the group, I always like the idea of introducing a fire-building activity. It’s a great way of teaching the children about fire safety and the correct way of working with fire. It also shows the parents that a little bit of risk is a good thing and, actually, children are really good at recognizing and managing risk during play.

My fire-building activity is run over two sessions, the first being an introduction to fire. We talk about risks, how to use fire and be around fire safely. We look at the equipment and talk about how we use it, and this gives me an idea on how the children react around the subject. It’s good for me to know that I can trust the group; if I am in any doubt about safety issues, I’ll leave the actual fire building session to a later date or, with some groups, perhaps fires may not the best or safest activity for them.

So, sitting in the classroom, we spoke about using a flint and steel to get the fire going. I demonstrate the process and, at the start, you do see the fear in some children’s eyes, as they’ve been told to never play with fire because it’s dangerous. Of course, it is when used in the wrong way, but with correct teaching comes respect, and it stops becoming the scary forbidden thing that children are often warned about.

We then move outside to the open playground. Here, the children make a little table of sticks and a ball of cotton wool is placed on top. The children then get to have a go at lighting the cotton wool in a safe and controlled environment. We always have a bowl of water at the side, (just in case), and the children take it in turns to strike the spark, so that they learn to wait and to observe the rules of our fire session.


Luckily, I’ve never had any child go out of control, or act dangerously with this activity. They really understand how to behave around the fire, and always use the equipment correctly. It’s lovely to watch and to be a part of this discovery process.


I believe that, sadly, in the society that we currently live in, we can wrap our children up in cotton wool in an attempt to shield them from too many potential hazards and risks. Many of these things were simply play experiences to me and my peers and, as children we were allowed to explore, discover and evaluate the safest way to avoid risks in play.

The current trend seems to almost promote “safe, indoor, computerised” activities, by telling children not to climb the tree in case you fall and break your leg, don’t play outside when its rainy because you’ll get a cold, and don’t jump in the puddle as you’ll ruin your shoes. As parents, I think we’ve all said these things to our children at some time or another, but didn’t we do all of these things when we were kids, and didn’t love it.

I think that a little bit of risky play works well in a safe environment and the children know that if they act responsibly, behave well and enjoy the session, the following week they get to enjoy a huge mug of hot chocolate and toast marshmallows on the fire that they helped to make!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

8 thoughts on “Exploring Risk in Play

  1. Well done Kim. There comes a point when you either trust children and teach them the right way and to have respect for fire or you leave it and let them discover for themselves without the respect fie deserves.
    Huge Hugs xxxx

    1. kim says:

      Hi David. I hope that all is well with you. Of course, you’re absolutely right. We have to do our best to teach the skills, but there’s a time when you have to pass the baton, and let children learn freely. I think the ability to make ones’ own judgement helps to nurture confidence, as well. Thanks for looking in on me. Take care, you.

  2. Absolutely agree. I think it is great that you are able to run workshops like this. #CountryKids

    1. kim says:

      Hey, thanks for your response. It’s really rewarding for the kids, but also for me when I see how much the kids enjoy outdoor free-play in a supervised environment. Kind regards to you. #countrykids

  3. I love your teaching program, it is a great way for children to learn. I bet they have a lovely time too and go home full of exciting tales and hair smelling of smoke. thank you so much for sharing with me on country Kids and Happy Easter to you all.

    1. kim says:

      Hey, how are you all? Thanks for your lovely feedback. It’s great to watch their eyes as the excitement and confidence grows. Outdoor free-play has so many benefits, I wish all kids would get the chance to enjoy outdoor active fun. Miss you all, see you soon. #countrykids

  4. Emma says:

    I love these projects they are such a great idea. Oldest goes to forest school and she adores it. It is great to encourage them outdoors and exploring outside. #countrykids

    1. kim says:

      Hi, thanks for your lovely comments. I agree with you, as too many kids miss the imagination, exploration and health benefits of outdoor activities. Kind regards. #country kids

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