Children's expressions of exhilaration and fear in risky play

Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    70 Citations (Scopus)


    Children naturally seek and conduct exciting forms of play that involve a risk of physical injury (risky play). Even though several prior studies give descriptions of risky play, none of them deeply explore children's expressions of how they experience different kinds of risky play. This study aims to do that. The results from video observations of children's risky play in two Norwegian preschools reveal that children experience several emotions, expressed bodily, facially, and verbally, while engaging in risky play. Their experiences include both pure exhilaration and pure fear, and quite often both emotions are present at the same time. The findings also indicate that one of the main aspects of risky play is to keep the exhilaration bordering on the feeling of pure fear; but if pure fear occurs, the play ends with withdrawal. Suggested implications of the study are that risk taking should be acknowledged as an important part of children's play, and that children should be able to engage in challenging play adjusted to their individual sense of risk and urge for exhilaration.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)92-106
    Number of pages15
    JournalContemporary Issues in Early Childhood
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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