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Restrictive Safety or Unsafe Freedom? Norwegian ECEC Practitioners' Perceptions and Practices Concerning Children's Risky Play

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Many countries face a growing debate on the balance between ensuring children's safety and allowing children to play in physically and emotionally stimulating and challenging environments. This study is theoretically and conceptually situated within this debate, focusing on how early childhood education and care (ECEC) practitioners perceive the risk in children's play, and how they handle children's physical risk-taking given their dual responsibilities to keep children safe and to provide enough developmental challenges. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven ECEC practitioners with the goal of gaining insight into their opinions and reflections on children's risky play in kindergarten. The results show that Norwegian ECEC practitioners assess children's opportunities to engage in risky play in kindergarten as good: play environments provide opportunities for risky play, and practitioners allow and encourage children's risky play. The practitioners have a positive attitude toward risky play and state that they think it is important for children's development. The interviews show that the strategies for handling risky play are adapted instinctively in the play situation, considering each child individually, and common boundaries or rules are rare. The results of this study are a contribution to the discussion on children's play safety and how to handle risk-taking play in ECEC settings, and would hopefully be inspiring to ECEC practitioners and politicians in countries other than Norway.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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