Risk and Our Pedagogical Relation to Children

On the Playground and Beyond

By Stephen J. Smith

Subjects: Early Childhood Studies
Series: SUNY series, Early Childhood Education: Inquiries and Insights
Paperback : 9780791435946, 232 pages, February 1998
Hardcover : 9780791435939, 232 pages, March 1998

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Table of contents


Part I. Locating a Pedagogy of Risk

1. Introduction

Venturing Onto the Playground

Redefining Risk

The Structure of the Study

Pedagogical Considerations

Part II. An Awareness of Risk

2. The Place of Risk

The Safety of the Playground

The Supervision of Children

The Observation of Children

Risky Situations

3. The Silence of Risk

An Approach of Silence

A Silent Procedure

The Unspoken Ground

A Silent Trust

Part III. A Responsiveness to Risk

4. The Atmosphere of Risk

The Texture of Risk

Modes of Presence

Pedagogical Presence

Playground Atmosphere

5. The Challenge of Risk

The Dare


Ways Out

Limits of Challenge

6. The Encounter with Risk


Becoming Mindful

Sensing Danger

Letting Go

Part IV. The Educational Significance of Risk

7. The Practice of Risk




Being in Practice

8. The Possibility of Risk

The Playing Field

Beyond the Playground

Towards a Curriculum

9. Practical Insights

Practical Ways of Acting

Practical Ways of Being





Shows that "risk" is a valuable and pedagogical experience for children on the playground (and for the adults that share that experience with them) in preparation for the precarious world which children find beyond the playground.


In this thoughtful book, Stephen Smith shows how parents and educators can become aware of the positive value of risk in children's lives and how they can be challenged to take risks that are worth their while. This text is a "how so" much more than a "how to" book. It shows by evocative example and provocative questions how adults can help children mature with confidence and a strong sense of physical competence.

The analysis shows the place, silence, atmosphere, challenge, encounter, practice and possibility of risk-taking. It consistently and conscientiously draws attention to a careful, solicitous manner of being with children.

Stephen J. Smith is Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University.


"This is an exemplary illustration of phenomenological writing! As the phenomenon of risk is opened up through a wonderful sense of questioning and examples of being with children in places where risk shows itself, we are led to encounter ourselves as educators, parents and curricularists. We are nudged to recall our own childhoods and rethink that tensionality between holding back and letting go in the child's experience of taking risks on playgrounds and in other risky places. I like where this journey through the places, silences and practices of risk takes us pedagogically. The author shows children who show us our pedagogical invitation. A pedagogy of risk is a delightful connection. " -- Francine Hultgren, University of Maryland