Risky Kids LogoRisky Kids
Risk Intelligence
18 October 2023

What Is Risky Play in Kids, And What Does It Do?

How to read our work

60 second skim6 minute read

We know you know how to read! But life is busy, you're busy and this might not be what you're looking for. Skim it first, read it later.

Each Risky Kids Article can be read:

  • In it's entirety (just read it all), or
  • Skim read. To skim read it, just read The FOCUS, SUMMARY and then all of the DOT POINTS and you're done!


Risky Play has been the foundation of Risky Kids since the beginning. When kids play risky, amazing things happen.


More than just play, Risky Play is challenge seeking and growth, determination and self determination, autonomy and accountability all rolled into one package.

  • Risky Play is versatile and kids are good at it. We need to learn to trust them.
  • It’s facing more challenges than ever though, and Risk Deficit Disorders are emerging,
  • When it’s allowed to flourish though it has amazing, far reaching outcomes,

Risky Play. You Know It When You See It.

It’s a powerhouse of positive outcomes, and only in recent years have we seen it begin to diminish. With new obstacles and changes in family dynamics it’s fading away.

  • Risky Play can be recognised by key categories like playing at height or speed,
  • It fills developmental roles for us as young people,
  • It has all the benefits of typical play,

Risky Play can often be recognised as play which occurs: at height, with speed, with risky tools (sticks, toys), with risky elements (water, darkness), as rough and tumble play, with impact, to become lost. If you’re seeing any of these, it’s Risky Play in action.


It’s also developmental in nature, with crucial and critical outcomes! Kids are naturally good at it and often with abilities far greater than we adults will give them credit for. We often stop them well before they even begin to deploy their judgement.


It has all the benefits of typical play as well, is incredibly accessible and gives opportunities that no other type of play has for building resilience.

New Obstacles and Risk Deficit Disorder

The barriers are being thrown up everywhere. Some have come about because of technology, some we’ve done to ourselves.

  • Technology and indoor recreation are reducing risk taking,
  • Physical and mental health issues are rising, and wellbeing is plummeting,
  • Risk Deficit Disorder has risen out of a race to the bottom to make everything as safe as possible,

As we’ve become a more risk averse society, we’ve begun to retreat into technology and indoors. Kids are now spending as little as 12 minutes a day on physical activity, and spending between 5 to 10 hours on screens.

This loss of risk taking is hitting us hard. Youth obesity is consistently rising, and low emotional resilience is prolific in society, with emotional disturbance, mood disorders and self esteem plummeting in young people and young adults.

Risk Deficit Disorder is also now a wide concern, with loss of judgement, resilience, learning ability, perception and autonomy all tied to this loss of risk taking.

Letting It Run Its Course

Risky Kids is working hard to bring risky play back to communities. By understanding the values it has, we can embrace it as a society.

  • Physically risk taking makes us stronger and healthier,
  • When we take risks we build up emotional and social skills to become more resilient,
  • Intellectually we only grow strong through risk, with better judgement and success orientation,

Risky Play firstly benefits our young people physically. As they take risks they’re building stronger bodies, from their muscles to their joints and bones. This active living when young also greatly increases the chance of active living later in life.


Emotionally and socially we build up resilience and a sense of purpose and identity. We also learn how to manage and navigate conflict, both internally and with others and master taking risks in relationships.


Finally we see a host of academic and intellectual benefits. Improved learning strategies, improved judgement and perception mean we’re far more likely to be able to gain skills and succeed in life.


Risky Play is one of the most valuable experiences of childhood. It builds a bedrock of resilience which can be deployed in all of our experiences from better judgement in social situations to stronger, more resilient immune systems.

Understanding its value is the first step to embracing it and returning it back to our communities.

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Risky Kids Founder, Director of Programming

Richard Williams is a fitness industry consultant, gym owner, business coach and professional stunt actor with more than a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. With an education in psychology and criminology, Richard blended life experience as a fitness industry consultant with Spartan Race, gym owner, elite-obstacle racer, ultra-runner and professional stunt actor to create the Risky Kids program.

Richard has a passion for enacting meaningful social change through all avenues of health and wellbeing and believes that obstacles are the way. Some of Richard’s key achievements include:

  • Key consultant/coordinator Spartan Race/Tough Mudder/Extreme Endurance
  • OCR World Championship Finalist –  Team & Solo (2015)
  • OCR World Championship Silver Medallist – Team Endurance (2018)
  • Professional film and television stunt performer for 15 years

Considered one of Australia’s foremost experts in the fields of fitness, wellbeing and behavioural science, Richard is frequently in demand as a guest speaker for relevant government and non-
government bodies and organisations. Speaking engagements centred on the success of the Risky Kids program, philosophy and approach have included:

  • Expert speaker/panellist Sports & Camp; Recreation Victoria and Outdoors Victoria forums
  • Closing expert speaker at the Australian Camps Association National Conference
  • Expert speaker at the National Fitness Expo, FILEX