Peter Gray, PhD, in a Psychology Today article describes the research-based emotion regulation theory of play, “the theory that one of play’s major functions is to teach young mammals how to regulate fear and anger. In risky play, youngsters dose themselves with manageable quantities of fear and practice keeping their heads and behaving adaptively while experiencing that fear. They learn that they can manage their fear, overcome it, and come out alive. In rough and tumble play they may also experience anger, as one player may accidentally hurt another. But to continue playing, to continue the fun, they must overcome that anger. If they lash out, the play is over. Thus, according to the emotion regulation theory, play is, among other things, the way that young mammals learn to control their fear and anger so they can encounter real-life dangers, and interact in close quarters with others, without succumbing to negative emotions.”
In the beautiful new book, Adventures in Risky Play, author Rusty Keeler helps educators think about how to support beneficial risky play in a way that works for each individual’s comfort level. This is especially relevant as educators are finding that spending more school time outdoors can be so helpful during a pandemic. Richard Louv, author of Our Wild Calling and Last Child in the Woods, has this to say:
“Rusty Keeler’s terrific book will inspire parents and caregivers to raise courageous, resilient children and young adults—with a little help from nature.”
Source: “Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It,” by Peter Gray, PhD., Psychology Today, April 7, 2020.
What is Your Yes?
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Adventures in Risky Play: What is Your Yes? goes to the heart of risk-taking and children. As educators working with young children, we all have boundaries and feelings around what risky play is allowed. Rusty Keeler invites us to examine the cage of boundaries that we have created for ourselves and our children. He challenges us to rattle our cage and discover where the lines are movable. In our role as educators and caretakers, when we allow children to play and confront risk on their own terms, we see them develop, hold their locus of control and make choices on how to navigate the bumpy terrain of a situation. What better teaching tool for life is there?
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