Learning Story – Swinging and Hiding/ Risky Play

Week of October 11, 2022

What Happened?

Even though we had one of our windiest and coldest days so far this fall, the Bushkids were excited to play outside and explore many different activities. They continued their Bush Stores from the previous session, cleaned and cooked a trout, sewed pouches and other fabric creations, went fishing by the lake shore, and went hiking in parts of the site we had not explored before. One Bushkid had the idea to play hide-and-go-seek, and soon many other kids became excited to join in. They asked an educator to find all of them, and then told the educator to hide so that they could work together in seeking. Some Bushkids, especially the younger ones, liked being easily found so they hid in the same place each time. Other Bushkids wanted to avoid being found so they start hiding and then running away to avoid being “caught”. We reminded them of our safety rules, that they must be able to see and hear an educator at all times.

Other Bushkids had the idea to make a swing, so we found a short piece of 2×4 wood, and drilled holes into it with a hand-powered drill, tied a rope through the holes and tried hanging it from a few different trees. Many of the Bushkids took turns swinging on the home-made swing.

Why is all of this meaningful? 

Hiding and swinging are two forms of “risky play.” Research has shown that age-appropriate risky play is essential for healthy childhood development—mental, physical, and social. The excitement of testing our limits and trying something new when we do not know the outcome helps us develop self-confidence, self-awareness, a more accurate sense of real physical risk and decreased levels of anxiety. 

There are six main physical types of risky play, listed in detail on the next page. Hide-and-go-seek is a form of “play with a chance of getting lost”; it creates a feeling, even just for a few minutes, of being all alone on the Land, which can be thrilling and a little scary. Like all forms of risky play, safe boundaries must be clearly communicated, such as not continuing to hide once the game is done, and not going so far away to be out of earshot. 

Swinging is a form of play at higher speeds and at heights. In this case, our simple swing was not able to go too high, but the Bushkids may continue to innovate and build bigger and better swings! We also used a sharp tool (the hand drill) and ropes to build the swing which is another form of risky play. 

What does this mean for next time? 

Each session of Bushkids incorporates some aspect of risky play; both physical and emotional risk-taking is supported. We teach kids to pay attention to the difference between nervous excitement (the “scary funny” feeling that takes us outside our comfort zones) and paralyzing fear that tells us we are pushing ourselves too far.

6 key physical aspects of risky play: 

  1. Play with heights, such as climbing trees or structures 
  2. Play at high speeds, such as a fast game of tag or riding a bike really fast 
  3. Play with tools, such as building a fort or whittling a stick 
  4. Play near elements, such as playing near fire, water, a cliff or a lake 
  5. Play with a chance of getting lost, such as wandering the neighbourhood with friends unsupervised, or simply hiding in the bushes 
  6. Rough-and-tumble play, such as rolling around and wrestling with each other 

At Bushkids we support both physical and emotional risk-taking. Emotional risk-taking could include speaking, singing, or performing in front of a group; sharing difficult feelings; or inviting someone to play or become a new friend.