Thursday, November 1, 2012

unwrapping risk - the conference

Last Friday I tootled up to Newcastle to attend the Unwrapping - Encouraging Risk in the Cotton Wool Generation Conference put on by the good folk at Inspired EC.

How happy I was as I travelled up the Pacific Highway, merrily dodging semi-trailers along the way.

Happy to be on a grown-up only weekend escape that involved staying in a hotel room all on my very own and sleeping in crisp clean sheets that someone else had to wash.

Happy to be meeting up with blogging and facebook buddies old and new.

Happy to be finally hearing one of my play gurus - Claire Warden - speak of things I am passionate about.  And then happy to find out that she is not only inspiring but very funny too.

Happy that so many early childhood educators think that risky play, outdoor play and nature play are important enough to devote a weekend too.

And finally happy to discover that they are doing it all again next year.

You can read more (detailed) conference post mortems over at:

Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning
Males in Early Childhood

Is risk in early childhood a topic that interests you?  Challenges you?  


  1. Fantastic to see - and would love to celebrate our school's focus on allowing responsible risks for the benefit of learning. We know this works - our pupils develop confidence, persistence, patience, resilience - all because we allow them to climb trees, ride bikes, skateboard, scooter, camp and light fires to cook overnight, diving board, fishing and exploration. Where else? Would be happy to share -

  2. Hi Jenny

    I agree Claire is a wonderful, witty and inspiring speaker and her Nature Kindergarten is worth visiting.

    I am wary of the current focus on risk in relation to children and childhood. I hear a lot of talk about enabling risky play but we have to be mindful as practitioners what the consequences are of our body language and words and actions around this.

    Listen to any speaker and do a "Health and Safety and risk" equivalent for bullsh*t bingo where you note the frequency of words like "risk", "danger", "assessment", "heath and safety." etc. This is not to trivialise this matter but very often inadvertently the very people (and I'd include myself here, as a presenter and trainer) who are trying to persuade practitioners to enable more risky play are actually reinforcing the fear factor.

    I prefer to look at issues around risk in terms of our land access rights (or any countries similar laws) and take a sustainable and rights based approach rather than one which looks at risk from a health and safety perspective as commonly happens. This is a subtle but very powerful change of focus.

    For example, I have heard very respected practitioners refer to woodlands as "high risk environments" - so I dread to think how they perceive a busy road.... It also concerns me that practitioners feel the need to risk benefit assess every conceivable little thing and that (again) presenters and trainers can leave practitioners feeling very inadequate. It is about making a situation as safe as necessary and not as safe as possible.

    I know Tim Gill is visiting Australia shortly and for me, he has the most sensitive and well-articulated understanding of childhood and risk of anyone I've met.

  3. I was there too - it was a wonderful experience and I felt very privileged listening to both Claire and Niki speak, especially in such a beautiful setting. It certainly has inspired me!