Risky play in children’s emotion regulation, social functioning, and physical health: an evolutionary approach

New article published with an evolutionary approach on risky play.

Abstract: The focus of this theoretical paper is to explore three biopsychosocial levels of children’s risky play: (1) mental health and emotion regulation, (2) social functioning and challenging norms, and (3) physical health and development. As such, in this paper, we expand Sandseter’s and Kennair’s focus in their original article in 2011 on the evolved function of risky play as an anti-phobic mechanism, and consider other types of risk than physical risks and other types of play, including other types of emotional regulation than anxiety reduction. Motivated by the thrilling emotions involved in risky play, one matures in competency and masters new and more complex psychosocial settings. Play with emotional, social, and physical risk may have evolved to increase the child’s psychosocial competency here-and-now, but also train them for future adult contexts. We recommend that future research consider how risky play in all contexts may have a similar function.

You find de the article open access here: Sandseter, E. B. H., Kleppe, R., & Ottesen Kennair, L. E. (2023, 2023/01/02). Risky play in children’s emotion regulation, social functioning, and physical health: an evolutionary approach. International Journal of Play, 12(1), 127-139. https://doi.org/10.1080/21594937.2022.2152531

Ellen 🙂


Children’s Perception and Utilization of ECEC Physical Environments

Another article from the EnCompetence project!

Abstract: Early childhood education and care (ECEC) institutions play an important role in many young children’s lives. Child-oriented research about the role of the physical ECEC environment in children’s play is scarce. The present study aims to develop knowledge about what children consider crucial elements in the physical ECEC environment. Seventy-one children (3–6 years old) were interviewed to gain insight into their perspectives on the physical ECEC environment. This study indicates that children desire a physical ECEC environment with various affordances supporting different play possibilities and that the social context influences how children may interact with the physical environment. The design of the physical ECEC environment is crucial to children’s everyday play experiences while in care.


A GoPro Look on How Children Aged 17–25 Months Assess and Manage Risk during Free Exploration in a Varied Natural Environment

A new open access article available. I am so grateful that Steffen and Alexander invited me into this collaboration!

Abstract: Research indicates that risky play has positive effects on children’s development, learning and health, and ability to assess and manage risk, but there is a lack of knowledge on how toddlers engage in risky play. This study aims to investigate how toddlers assess and manage risk in free exploration in a varied natural environment and was conducted within an explorative qualitative approach. Observations were collected through head-mounted GoPro cameras while seven toddlers freely explored a natural environment. The results show that toddlers are able to assess and manage risks in challenging natural environments. They develop their own risk management skills and assess risks directly and indirectly. The results also show that practitioners sometimes perform risk assessment/management on behalf of the child and thus override the child’s own actions. The findings suggest implications for an early childhood education and care (ECEC) practice where children even as young as 17–25 months should be allowed to explore challenging environments and learn how to assess and manage risks


New book published!

I am so happy to announce that Øyvind Kvalnes and I have just published a small and very pretty book named Risikofylt lek. En etisk utfordring (Risky play. An ethical challenge). In the book we combine research about risky play and theories about ethical navigation to shed light on how to handle the dilemma adults usually face when children seek risk in their play and activities. The book is in Norwegian, but hopefully it will be published in more languages in the future 🙂 And, it is beautifully illustrated by Fredrik Skavlan!

Harassment in ECEC institutions: 4- to 6-year-old children’s experiences

New article on the data from the ECEC Well-Being Monitor!

Abstract: There are limited studies involving preschool children and phenomena such as harassment, bullying, exclusion and rejection. This study explores the relations between 4- to 6-year-old children’s experiences of being frequently harassed in Norwegian Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institutions, their overall feeling of subjective well-being and their social relationship experiences with staff and peers. The study also investigates whether there are significant differences between frequently harassed children’s experiences of well-being and social relations compared to other children’s experiences. The data reported in this study are collected through the Norwegian ECEC Well-being Monitor, an online, free of charge, electronic questionnaire developed for ECEC institutions. A total of 3598 children are included in the study. The main findings show that, for a majority of indicators, children who are frequently harassed have significantly different experiences of subjective well-being and social relations with peers and staff, mostly more negative, than other children.

Fll text article can be found here: Seland, M., Moe, B., & Sandseter, E. B. H. (2021). Harassment in ECEC institutions: 4- to 6-year-old children’s experiences. Early Years, 1-16. doi:10.1080/09575146.2021.1958198


Risk and Safety Management in Physical Education: Teachers’ Perceptions

My PhD-student, Lise Porsanger, and I have published a paper on Teachers’ perceptions of risk and safety management in the school subject physical education.

Abstract: Bodily movement is a central component in students’ educational experiences in school-based physical education (PE) programs. PE unavoidably involves physical risk. In some respects, the risk of play, sports and adventure is portrayed as necessary and healthy for children’s development. However, concerns about students’ safety and teachers’ liability might generate risk aversion among teachers. This article explores teachers’ perceptions of risk and safety management (RSM) in PE. Designed as a mixed methods study, the data include an online survey questionnaire (n = 698) and semi-structured interviews (n = 17) among primary and lower secondary PE teachers in Norway. A majority of the survey respondents report that their students only experience minor injuries in their PE classes. The interview data coincide with these results and indicate that minor injuries are rather common. While the survey results show that teachers mostly perceive RSM to be important in PE, the interview data suggest that the teachers’ perceptions of risk are characterized by uncertainty, which restricts the teachers’ control by means of RSM. Teachers also accept risk for enhancing students’ educative experiences in PE. Consequently, this study contributes to the knowledge of the complexity of risk and teachers’ perceptions of RSM in PE.

Find the full text article here: Porsanger, L., & Sandseter, E. B. H. (2021). Risk and Safety Management in Physical Education: Teachers’ Perceptions. Education Sciences, 11(7), 321. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-7102/11/7/321

Ellen 🙂

Associations between Children’s Risky Play and ECEC Outdoor Play Spaces and Materials

New article from the EnCompetence published!

Abstract: Children spend a large amount of time each day in early childhood education and care (ECEC) institutions, and the ECEC play environments are important for children’s play opportunities. This includes children’s opportunities to engage in risky play. This study examined the relationship between the outdoor play environment and the occurrence of children’s risky play in ECEC institutions. Children (n = 80) were observed in two-minute sequences during periods of the day when they were free to choose what to do. The data consists of 935 randomly recorded two-minute videos, which were coded second by second for several categories of risky play as well as where and with what materials the play occurred. Results revealed that risky play (all categories in total) was positively associated with fixed equipment for functional play, nature and other fixed structures, while analysis of play materials showed that risky play was positively associated with wheeled toys. The results can support practitioners in developing their outdoor areas to provide varied and exciting play opportunities.

You can find the article in full text, open access here:

Ellen 🙂

Risky Play and Children’s Well-Being, Involvement and Physical Activity

New article from the EnCompetence project published this week!

Sando, O.J., Kleppe, R. & Sandseter, E.B.H. Risky Play and Children’s Well-Being, Involvement and Physical Activity. Child Ind Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-021-09804-5

Abstract: Children’s activities and experiences in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institutions are essential for children’s present and future lives. Playing is a vital activity in childhood, and playing is found to be positively related to a variety of outcomes among children. In this study, we investigated how risky play – a fundamentally voluntary form of play – related to children’s well-being, involvement and physical activity. Results from structured video observations (N = 928) during periods of free play in eight Norwegian ECEC institutions indicated that engagement in risky play was positively associated with children’s well-being, involvement and physical activity. The findings in this study suggest that one way to support children’s everyday experiences and positive outcomes for children in ECEC is to provide children with opportunities for risky play. Restrictions on children’s play behaviours following safety concerns must be balanced against the joy and possible future benefits of thrilling play experiences for children.

Ellen Beate

The relationship between indoor environments and children’s play – confined spaces and materials

From the EnCompetence project: Sandseter, E. B. H., Storli, S. & Sando, O. J. (2021) The relationship between indoor environments and children’s play – confined spaces and materials, Education 3-13, DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2020.1869798

Abstract: The provision of environments that support and afford play is fundamental for young children’s experiences, learning and development. Play environments of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institutions are therefore of great importance for the opportunities provided children to create and engage in a wide range of play. This study examines the association between Norwegian ECEC institutions’ indoor environment (spaces and materials) and children’s engagement in different types of play. Children (3–6 years, N = 86) were observed in two-minute sequences during periods of the day when they were free to choose what to do. The data consists of 943 randomly recorded two-minute videos, which were coded second-by-second to register the type of play occurring, the space in which it occurred and the materials children used. The results show that the indoor environment in the participating ECEC institutions afforded predictable play types in what could be called confined spaces designed and furnished for certain kinds of play activities. The authors discuss how this helps practitioners maintain predictability and control of children’s play, while on the other hand, it restricts children’s play and freedom to bring their own initiatives, ideas and creativity into the play in unpredictable ways.

Enjoy! 🙂