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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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3.1 (Non)Risky resources

Concerns about risk are reflected in the resources used in the outdoor areas that babies and toddlers have access to. Often, such outdoor environments can be described as artificial and safe, offering very little challenge for the children. Some writers have suggested that one culprit in allowing such environments to emerge are quality guidelines such as Infant and Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R14) (Harms et al., 2006). This guidance is used widely, in different cultural contexts and it is argued that such guidance emphasises structural and safety issues.

This emphasis has in turn led to the practice of providing outdoor environments that are not particularly inspiring. However, not all countries use these guidelines; for example, Norway seems to have different interpretations of risk and safety. Here, children are not separated outdoors by age group, which is suggested as a mark of quality according to ITERS. One study of Norwegian practice by Kleppe (2018) explored the extent to which settings encourage risky play for young children (under three). Surprisingly, they found that the youngest children engaged in more risky play indoors! Risk-taking is important for young children; as Kleppe argues:

First, because the play experience itself is intrinsically valuable, including experiences of exploration and autonomy, which may allow children to experience emotions such as hesitation, fear, excitement, pleasurable arousal and mastering. Second, several researchers have argued that risky play is essential for developing realistic risk assessment skills.

(Kleppe, 2018, p. 5)