Safe sessions and risky play
When planning physical activity in the early years it's important to consider health and safety in terms of the environment and the type of activity being planned. Assessing the risks in your environment is an important part of this; it involves you identifying potential hazards and considering any actions which may need to be taken to minimise the risk that they pose.
Risk assessment is something that most of us will do naturally in many environments, for instance, when walking in a wintry environment we may choose to wear boots with good grips, or avoid the patch of ground that is covered in ice. If we walk into a play room and see a small chair upturned then we will choose to pick it up in case anyone falls over it. Risks within the early years environment will vary in severity and although we may consider each risk, not all will need to be formally written down.
The hazard may be a physical object such as a climbing frame, or an activity such as a treasure hunt. When completing risk assessment as part of whole setting health and safety procedures, early years settings could consider including the assessment of physical activity sessions.
The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage states that:
"Outdoor and indoor spaces, furniture, equipment and toys, must be safe and suitable for their purpose."
"The provider must conduct a risk assessment and review it regularly - at least once a year or more frequently where the need arises."
When planning and delivering an early years physical activity session, giving consideration to the questions below may help to ensure everyone enjoys a safe and fun session:
- What activity is being planned and is it appropriate for the age group?
- Who is the session for and do any of the children have medical conditions or disabilities that need to be taken into consideration?
- Where will the activity take place and is the space suitable/ safe for the activity and if appropriate are the weather conditions suitable?
- What equipment will be used, is it in good working order and is it appropriate for the age group?
- Are children wearing appropriate clothing?
- For specialist activities (e.g. dance or gymnastics) does the person leading the activity hold a relevant qualification and are the recommended ratios of coaches to children followed?