Outdoor risky play and healthy child development in the shadow of the “risk society”: A forest and nature school perspective

ABSTRACT


This article addresses the effects of a risk-averse Western society on healthy childhood development. Forest and nature schools are specifically identified for their inclusion of outdoor risky play. Forest and nature schools are presented as idealized venues to investigate and understand the necessary balance of risk-taking and safety in child development. Forest and nature school is an environment in which risk of injury is inherent yet minimal. Although teachers/practitioners allow risk-taking, it may not be well understood outside of the context of the forest and nature school. Beck’s risk-society is introduced and argued to hold steady influence—a shadow—over societal beliefs and practices, inducing fear of litigation in the minds of practitioners. Through recognizing and addressing unreasonable societal perception and acceptance of actual childhood risks, one can better estimate the value of the minimal risks forest and nature schools pose to children. The author proposes a reconceptualization of risk in child development and advocates for reform of policy and practices which prevent children from full exploration of their capacity and curiosity through outdoor risky play.

 

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