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18 November 2023

Why Risk Taking is More Than Play

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Risk Taking and Challenge Based Behaviour Have Incredible Outcomes Which Persist Through Our Lives. It’s Not Just Play


The current climate around risk taking in young people is that it’s primarily a play activity. Whilst this isn’t incorrect, it’s also reducing it greatly. It’s a psychosocial and physical powerhouse.

  • Resilience is the bedrock of all our skills and abilities,
  • With better risk taking, we become better at learning,
  • We need to fight back though, because it’s not winning

Beneath Everything, Resilience

We might be biased, but here we are. Beneath every skill set and action we take, our ability to navigate risk is the bedrock of how we achieve success.

  • Risk Taking improves our judgement, improving our lives,
  • We become better at delaying gratification and achieving greater success,
  • We have better relationships when we’re resilient thanks to risk taking,

Risk taking helps us to build so many foundational skills which touch every part of our life. Our judgement, developed through risk taking, helps us to decide on important life choices like education.

Just the same, eating healthy and exercising are all based in our ability to delay gratification which emerges when people develop their risk intelligence.

Socially when it comes to navigating differing opinions with friends and partners it’s down to our ability to tolerate conflict and build empathy, which is learned as we push boundaries and experience our own conflicts. Risk taking is pervasive throughout our lives, and the more we recognise this, the more we can prioritise it.

Risk Isn’t Just Reactive, It’s Active Learning

At Risky Kids we believe that risk taking leads to risk intelligence. We can see this through several theories of learning.

  • Risk taking lets us test our theories and better understand the world,
  • We’re physically and mentally toughened by the risk taking process and exposure to stress,
  • With all of this we achieve success and excellence.

Risk intelligence is characterised by theory seeking. We reach out into the world and seek to understand it better by pushing against boundaries and understanding it’s rules by trying to break them. We plan, act and reflect to learn.

This process toughens us. Our mind and body learn that it needs to become more resilient. Psychological and physical processes occur as we experience stress which non-associatively build resilience in every aspect of our life, even going so far as to increase our immune system!

Finally this toughness, and this exploration leads to success. We reach our goals, we achieve excellence and out of this comes greater goals and greater successes. We continue to look for what’s next.

Risk Taking Is Going The Way Of The Dinosaurs

But risk taking is being eroded and we need to fight back. From risk averse societies, schools and communities we’re seeing risk deficits and a lack of toughness across the board.

  • We’re shifting away from risk in our communities,
  • Between fear and emerging technologies and unlimited entertainment kids are now “safe” indoors,
  • The fight for risk is a fight for human excellence,

A person can be tough and flexible at the same time. We can be risky and not reckless. But we keep filling in the unknown parts of our world with cotton wool and as a result we’re not tough, and we’re not risky. Kids are staying indoors at startling rates.

Parents and families are limiting their autonomy and removing their accountability, with the majority of young people up to 14 years old being limited to indoor recreation at their home.

We have to begin to identify the challenges that risk taking faces, and understand it’s more than just play, it’s a fight for human excellence and achievement.


Risky Play is just one of the many forms of Risk Taking. As we grow into adults we take risks every day, we may just not recognise them. From the decision to not get take-away and eat healthy, to engaging in a self destructive relationship, we’re always leaning into risk.

But we’re getting worse at it, starting with kids. We’ve begun to fear risk in young people, but want the things it gives. We want kids to be tough and successful, but not at the expense of our own comfort.

This must change. Begin to embrace risk, with all its thorns.

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