National Outdoor Play Day and the importance of risky play

Today, Jantje Beton and the children’s channel Nickelodeon are once again arranging the national outdoor play day. Everywhere in the Netherlands, every effort is made to let children play outside. Play is not only fun for the child, but above all ‘risky play’ is very important for the physical, social and intellectual development. Unfortunately, it happens less and less, why? Researchers from Utrecht University are researching this. The swimming pool is of course also the place for children to frolic and develop playfully by climbing and climbing.

Physical, social and intellectual development

CBS Health Survey / Lifestyle Monitor 2021 shows in collaboration with the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) that children between 4 and 12 years have played more outside. Given the concerns about children’s lifestyles and the fear that children are playing too little and playing too much, this is a favorable development. Unfortunately, research from the Mulier Institute also shows that during the first lockdown, a larger proportion of primary school children (4-12 years) had less motor skills than before. Exercise is, of course, extremely important for young people, and it remains important to encourage children to exercise enough. But especially playing outside, this environment is extremely good for children’s motor development. Of course, this is good for learning to swim, but it turns out that children with motor skills also play sports and exercise more and participate more in sports and play than less skilled children. Adolescents with well-developed motor skills are often fitter, less likely to be overweight or have chronic disorders. In addition, ‘risky play’ is good for children to learn to assess risks and where their boundaries go. In addition to motor development, it also promotes cognitive and emotional development and forms the basis for a child’s social and intellectual development. By literally and figuratively giving children space, you let them decide for themselves what to do and what they like.

Read also: ‘Reduction of motor skills and increased weight slows down the learning process of swimming’

‘The power of risky gambling’

Reasons enough to encourage children to climb and climb a lot and discover what is and is not possible. Yet it seems that children are doing this less. In addition to (outdoor) play having to compete with passive activities such as games, ‘real’ play is also often hampered by parents. They seem to have become much more cautious. This may be due to the fact that the streets have become busier and that social control is less than before. At the same time, it may also be that children are brought up too protective. In addition, the environment plays a role, physical and natural elements can greatly stimulate risky play. But what exactly is the cause, and how can we ensure that children come out more often? A team of scientists from the Department of Human Geography and Planning at Utrecht University is investigating this in the project ‘The power of risky play’. Since March, they have been researching two playgrounds in Rotterdam together with Ravottuh, part of Buurtlab. They look at how the two play areas are designed to promote risky play and how these areas are used by children. In addition, they interview children and parents to find out what they think about risky outdoor play. They also talk to various policy makers about decision making and policy embedding of high-risk playgrounds. The investigation is currently still ongoing.

Want to know more about this? Read more about the research The power of risky play or listen to the podcast Focus Science (NPO Radio) with Kirsten Visser: ‘Playgrounds must give children the opportunity to take risks’ external link.


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