It is important to adopt a balanced approach to risk management which includes taking into account the child or young person’s age, needs and abilities:
An activity such as climbing needs to be appropriate for both the age and the ability of the child. Many Adventure Playgrounds and parks have age restricted play areas which take into account the safety of the child, for example Harewood House Adventure Playground.
The older childs play area is inappropriate for a smaller child, with a risk of falling from a greater height, getting a foot stuck in the netting, or being knocked over by bigger children.
By using the area designated for younger children, they are still able to explore their capabilities, and can learn how to asses and manage risk for themselves, but within a safer and more suitable environment, with the support of an adult.
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It is also important to avoid taking excessive risks, for example, allowing a small child to participate in pond dipping without sufficient adult support.
I regularly access a Farm Activity Centre which has a ground level pond with no fencing around it, and it would be easy to respond to the hazard by not permitting the younger children to participate. However, with close adult supervision and an awareness of the hazards, younger children are able to share the enjoyment and exploration, together with their older peers. The benefits to the child involved in such an activity are many, and are intrinsically linked to the EYFS framework.
For instance, they can fulfil their exploratory drive, delighting in new experiences (PSED – Dispositions & Attitudes), show a curiosity & interest in living things (KUW – Exploration & Investigation) and using and controlling pond dipping nets (PD – Using Equipment and Materials).