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

Sandseter, E.B.H.
Child Care in Practice 18(1), 83-101.


The purpose of this study is to investigate how the staff at a Norwegian daycare facility with an outdoors/nature profile compared to an ordinary daycare facility evaluate children’s possibilities for ‘risky play’ as well as how the staff evaluate and deal with risky play. On the basis of previous studies, the researcher characterises risky play as play that can lead to physical injury and as play at altitudes and speed, tumble play, play using dangerous tools or to be on the verge of danger or getting lost.


The study shows that the educators and assistants allow and support the risky play. According to the interviewed staff, the children at both daycare facilities have several possibilities for risky play where the children are offered a rich and varied play environment. Possibilities in the play environment are therefore given high priority. For example, there are tall trees, varying types of ground, places to hide, places to bounce up and down, playhouses to climb on and slides which are all considered important for children’s risky play. The interviewed staff rarely experience that the children are injured, and they believe that the risky play is positive for the children’s development: Risky play improves the overall development and learning of children and breaks with everyday humdrum by contributing with exciting and fun games. Moreover, the study shows that risky play at daycare facilities is managed through unwritten rules and silent knowledge of what is allowed and what is not at the daycare facility. Therefore, there are no common rules for the employees and the children. With regard to how risky play is assessed, the early childhood educators and the childcare assistants say that each risky play situation is assessed individually in relation to the children’s competences and ability to manage risks.


The data collection builds on interviews with seven early childhood educators and childcare assistants (untrained staff) from two daycare facilities, one ordinary daycare facility and one with an outdoor/nature profile in a Norwegian municipality.


Sandseter, E.B.H. (2012). Restrictive Safety or Unsafe Freedom? Norwegian ECEC Practitioners' Perceptions and Practices Concerning Children's Risky Play. Child Care in Practice 18(1), 83-101.

B Little, H., Sandseter, E.B.H. & Wyver, S. (2012). Early Childhood Teachers’ Beliefs about Children’s Risky Play in Australia and Norway. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 13(4), 300-316.

Sandseter, E.B.H., Little, H. & Wyver, S. (2012). Do Theory and Pedagogy Have an Impact on Provisions for Outdoor Learning? A Comparison of Approaches in Australia and Norway. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning 12(3), 167-182.

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