What does “risky play” mean in outdoor education?

Jumping, climbing, building, and more. We think of crossing a stream on slippery rocks or a suspended log, climbing a tree, getting dirty, and a hundred other ways kids use their bodies in nature. We also think of challenging personal fears, no matter how small. Keep reading and looking at the photos for more examples and information on why taking risks is good for childhood development.

The benefits of taking a risk

One of the most important benefits of outdoor play is healthy risk-taking. Risky play helps kids develop self-confidence, challenge themselves, test limits, overcome fear, and explore boundaries. There’s even evidence that healthy risk-taking as a young child reduces higher-stakes risk-taking as an adolescent.


Children who spend time playing outdoors in natural settings also have stronger bones and immune systems. The risks they take introduce repeated and natural stress on their bodies, which encourages their bodies to build the structures it needs to stay safe. Because of their exposure to a wide diversity of plants, animals, and other organisms, kids who spend time playing in natural settings have lower cases of allergies, stronger immune responses to truly dangerous germs, and even healthier guts!










Kids spend less time outside now than ever in human history. Outdoor Education Adventures is passionate about getting kids muddy and giving them a chance to take risks and become self-aware. Your generous gift will help us give more kids these important opportunities. Please donate today.

Stretching our boundaries

Often when we think of taking a risk, we think of big things: climbing boulders or moving to a new country. But taking a risk isn’t always big. Often at OEA, children come to us with very deep, personal fears, ranging anywhere from “creepy crawlies” to outhouses to talking with other people. Sometimes they’re only with us for a week, then they’re gone, but in that week we work with them gently to help them challenge their fears and stretch their boundaries. We never push, only support. We meet them where they are and go from there. The best weeks for us end with them feeling that they have made a huge leap.

A child with an intense insect phobia proudly holds a butterfly carcass. A small crawdad crawls in the hands of a child who was afraid to catch it.