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Types of Risky Play: Playing at High Speeds

Risky play is an important part of every childhood to help develop many skills such as confidence, resourcefulness, balance, and budding curiosity.

If you haven’t already taken a look, make sure to read up on my previous blog post about What is Risky Play and why it is important.

One of the most common uses of risky play in early childhood is playing at high speeds. In the case of risky play, playing at high speed is a child using their speediness in one of many ways:

  • running

  • sliding

  • spinning

  • swinging

  • using tools and equipment meant to increase speed in play (such as skis, sleds, or bicycles)

Just like most of you, I think about a lot of these speed-oriented play types and associate them strongly with my own childhood! What better way to have positive nostalgia than to share those same types of activities and play with your children.

Just like in each of these posts, I’m going to break it down for you as simply as possible. This post will be going through:

~ The risks with playing at high speeds

~ The benefits of play at high speeds

~ How risky play at high speeds may look with age

~ Ideas for playing at high speeds

~ Things you could say to your child

What are the Risks?

The known risk for playing at high speeds is the possibility of losing control, causing your child to slip and/or fall while in motion. While your child is learning the boundaries of their body and their environment, they may push the envelope too far and end up ‘crashing’ in a sense. This could cause cuts and scrapes, or worse, depending on the activity they are doing and the speed in which they were traveling.

It’s important to remind your child to listen to their body, and for them and you to look for potential hazards that could turn the risky play into an unnecessary danger.

The Benefits of Play at High Speeds

This is when we look at if the benefits outweigh the risks of playing at high speeds. The more your child tests their comfort levels with playing at high speeds, the more they will know how to adjust their speeds to their abilities and activities. Similar to playing with heights, this can have an anti-phobic effect, helping your child become less afraid of fast speeds in other scenarios in their life.

A few other of the long, amazing list of benefits that can be seen while playing at high speeds include perceptual awareness, spatial orientation, balance, executive functioning abilities, self-confidence, and risk-management skills.

How Risky Play at High Speeds May Look at Different Ages

Whether you have a toddler riding their scooter down your driveway or a teenager driving a motorcycle, both have the thrill-factor of speed that your child is trying to obtain and maintain during their play.

In the early stages of childhood, infants and toddlers use their own bodies to try and move as fast as they can. From crawling to learning to walk to getting themselves running, they are constantly trying to get faster between Point A and Point B.

You may also see children of younger ages using their bodies by rolling down hills. They also get a kick out of riding on Mom or Dad’s shoulders (all the fun and none of the work, smart kids!).

When children start to get older, you’ll see them source equipment to help them obtain speeds faster than they can get with their own bodies.

Whether that be playground equipment or a ride-on toy, your child will slowly become more and more comfortable with the items and begin to increase their speed tolerance.

Most of the equipment you'll see children using to help increase speed will be something that has wheels (bicycle, scooter, roller blades) or uses gravity to its advantage (rope, swing, sled).

Before you know it, your child could become a speed junky and never stop moving!

Ideas for Playing at High Speeds

There are so many activities your child can do that use momentum, gravity, and their bodies to create the delight and adventure they seek when playing with speed! Whether playing independently, with other children or with you, here are a few examples of playing that can incorporate high speeds:

  1. Swings! You could use a standard playground swing (or infant/toddler swing depending on age), tire swing (horizontal or vertical), rope swing, disc swing… there’s so many types and so many ways to use them. Whether your child swings as high as they can or spins as fast as possible if they can, they are playing with speed!

  2. Play ball! Seriously. There’s SO many organized sports that involve a lot of running, such as soccer, football, and baseball. What if there’s only one or two of you? Use the balls at your disposal and create your own game!

  3. Rolling down hills. This one is SO simple, but as a child is always a good time – it’s the thrill of a carnival ride without any expense (other than maybe your lunch if you join your child too many times!)

  4. Take your bike, tricycle, scooter or wagon and go! Whether you ride down the street, through your neighbourhood or down that epic hill a block over, that raw speed will naturally happen.

  5. Have an infant or toddler still in a stroller? Playing with the speeds you push the stroller can be exciting for your child! Safely going from slow to quick and swerving side to side can give even your youngest children a big smile with experiencing speeds.

  6. Another way to experience hills is by utilizing them in the winter with skis, snowboards, and sleds. You can even use a big piece of cardboard on a well-packed hill to zoom down with ease!

  7. Slides! This is one you probably think of when we talk about heights, but half the fun of a slide is how fast you can go down them. Some slides are high, some long, and some windy, but most will allow your child to go quickly! Your child can even change the feeling of the speed by going on their tummies or face-first, or maybe even adding water to the slide to make it more slippery.

  8. Incorporate games into your play that involve a lot of running. These could be games your child creates on their own or already established games. Some of our favourites include Tag, Octopus, Capture the Flag, and Water Balloon Relay.

  9. Play on a zipline. This can be done at a local playground, or you could make one in your own backyard. Attach some cables to some trees or poles, create a handle with a pulley and attached it! There are tons of tutorials on how to do this at home. You can adjust the height and length depending on your child’s age/comfort. (You could even put it going over your pool!)

  10. Use the natural speed of water using logs, boats, dinghies, or paddle boats. Who doesn’t love the feeling of speeding down the lake on a boat, or pedaling as fast as you can in your pedal boat to get from point A to point B (or maybe to beat a friend to the shore).

(Click through the slideshow to see a few examples of playing with speed)

Things You Could Say to Your Child

What if your child is constantly testing speeds? What if you’re worried it looks dangerous? It’s easy to tell your child to just “stop it,” but then they lose all the benefits of this developmental play!

Just as with playing with heights, trying to word things in a positive way is always the most beneficial, as this allows your child to be proactive in their own risk-management skills and assessments with their play.

Here are a few examples of things you could say to allow your child to assess their own play:

  • “Do you feel safe going that speed?”

  • “It looks like you need to get some energy out, let’s head over to the field”

  • “Wow, that’s a lot of rolling! How does your head/tummy feel?”

  • “That branch up ahead is in the way, what should we do?”

  • “Woah! You’re practicing your balance! You’re really listening to your body, way to go!”

  • “Notice how the pebbles make the wheels on your bike more wobbly?”

By saying things like these, we bring focus to the child fostering awareness and guiding their problem solving, so we can save the words “be careful!” for times when your child should truly stop in their tracks (example: running towards the road).

Have any more questions about engaging in risky play at high speeds? Comment them below!

To learn about Risky Play with Heights, click here!

Make sure to come back and read up on the future posts about the other types of risky play.

Until next time, have fun and be safe!

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