Finn deHeer, 5, enjoys some valuable outdoor playtime at Clunes Community Preschool.
Finn deHeer, 5, enjoys some valuable outdoor playtime at Clunes Community Preschool. Marc Stapelberg

The preschool where risk taking is encouraged

ENCOURAGING children to take more risks and be adventurous during play-time is the idea behind the redeveloped outdoor space at Clunes Community Preschool.

The purpose-built space is a safe, challenging place where children can test themselves and teachers say they are truly thriving.

Director, Melinda Gambley said research supports the importance of taking risk during play.

"It challenges children to learn new skills, develop their physicality, and trust their bodies in a variety of settings," Ms Gambley said.

"An increasingly risk averse society is making physically active, playful risk taking ever more difficult for children to practice.

"When children come across risky play situations, it challenges them to learn new skills...with practice, children gain the skills and confidence they need to handle risks and challenges by themselves. This is why risk in play is important for child development.

"We had access to some learning environment grants so we used that to refurbished that outdoor space here.

"We feel being outdoors and having lots of active play and opportunities to connect with nature is good for physical development and emotional well-being."

The pre-school's new playground is a multi-tiered space surrounded by nature. 

Children can chase around the uneven terrain, splash in the mini 'creek' or even test out a 'ninja line' borrowed from the Lismore Toy Library.

There is also bikes, a sandpit, mud kitchen, pet chickens and a large undercover outdoor area for creative arts and group work.

"With a strong emphasis on nature, we work to develop children's curiosity as well as their physical and social wellbeing," Ms Gambley said.

She said since the change they had noticed children were calmer and able to concentrate for longer periods of time after play.

"We've been experimenting...given them longer periods of outdoor play and more challenging activities.

"Children who feel confident about physical activity are more likely to go on and do sports later in their schooling life. We are thinking ahead about how they're learning at preschool is going to affect their whole lives.

"Early childhood centres preschool are heavily regulated and we do live in a risk adverse society so we wanted to help children to take risks in a safe way so they can learn how manage the risks by themselves."