Embracing risky play in long day care
The Sector > Provider > General News > Do you feel safe? How one NSW long day care is embracing risky play

Do you feel safe? How one NSW long day care is embracing risky play

by Freya Lucas

May 09, 2024

Risky play is part of the everyday experience at Hamilton Childcare Centre in New South Wales, where early childhood teacher Alex Sutherland and his colleagues guide children through a range of experiences designed to expose them to various opportunities for learning. 


From parkour to using tools and engaging with fire, educators at Hamilton believe that learning how to take risks is an invaluable part of early learning. 


The service has six outdoor spaces dedicated to risk exploration, using elements of height, speed, impact, rough and tumble play, tools, and natural elements such as fire and water.


Children, Hamilton Director Kylie Kirrage believes, intuitively understand how to assess risk in their play.


“They understand how they might be able to climb something, and they understand how fast they can move around things called adventurous play,” Ms Kirrage said.


“We just sometimes say things like, ‘Do you feel safe?” or “what can you do next?” she explained. 


“They become confident and very capable.”


For Mr Sutherland, loose parts play theory is a loose inspiration for the construction of these spaces, with the children offered materials and the freedom to explore them in a way that promotes creativity. 


“In play a lot of the learning that happens is incidental. It’s spur of the moment stuff,” he said.


Later this month Mr Sutherland will travel to Sweden and Wales as a recipient of the 2023 NSW Premier’s Teacher Early Childhood Education and Care Scholarship to conduct research on the ‘Original Learning Approach’ developed by Swedish education consultant Suzanne Axelsson.


The approach weaves together playing, learning, and teaching and is driven by 10 principles such as wonder, curiosity and risk.  


He aims to explore how these principles can be used by Australian educators to engage children in bigger concepts such as sustainability and justice and will present his findings to services across the state on his return. 


To learn more about the NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarships, which provide $10,000 or $15,000 for a five-week study tour within Australia or abroad, please use the link provided. 


The program is open to permanent and temporary teachers in NSW government and non-government schools, on TAFE NSW campuses and across early childhood centres.  

The Premier’s Early Childhood Education Scholarship is open to degree-qualified early childhood teachers who are teaching in early childhood education and care services in NSW. 


The scholarship is for study in any aspect of early childhood education.  


Applications for the annual scholarships program close on 17 May 2024.

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