State child care licensing rules dictate that providers must follow certain supervision and safety standards, both inside and outside the home.
Beyond these rules providers do have leeway in how they allow children to play.
Some providers may want the children in their care to have more freedom in their play. They may allow children to climb trees, go barefoot and perhaps engage in rough and tumble play. It can be as simple as letting children run around outside.
There is a body of evidence that shows that engaging in such play helps kids build self-confidence, lean to assess and manage risk in the “real” world, build physical, social, and thinking skills, and learn to face/manage fear.
For more information, see: Early Childhood Risk Taking.
Let’s call this type of activity “risky play.”
Some providers would not consider conducting “risky play” activities because of the fear of being sued by a parent.
What are the risks associated with “risky play?”
In discussing this I am not suggesting that providers do anything that violates their state child care licensing rules regarding the proper supervision of children.
Here are some points to consider if you are considering “risky play” for children:
1) Risky plan does increase the risk of a child becoming injured. Children who go barefoot or climb trees run a higher risk of injury. It may be a very slight additional risk, but it’s there.
2) It’s vital for a family child care provider to have accidental medical insurance protection. This could be included in a business liability insurance policy or as a separate policy. Usually such policies will provide $5,000 – $20,000 of coverage for accidents. Having this coverage will reduce the chances that a parent will sue you and potentially cause an increase in your liability insurance rates.
3) If parents sign a permission form allowing their children to engage in “risky play” this may provide you with some additional protection. It may reduce the chances that a parent will sue you and it may help your insurance company defend you if they do sue. I have heard different opinions from insurance agents about the value of such permission forms. Talk to your insurance agent about this.
4) Inform your licensor if you are going to change the way children are playing in your program. Good communication with your licensor will reduce the chances that you will be in violation of your licensing rules.
5) In the end, if a child is injured in your program, your business liability insurance policy will protect you in the event of a lawsuit.
6) Lastly, use your common sense. We want children to have fun. We want them to explore their world in their own way. And we want to keep them safe. It’s impossible to prevent every injury to every child.
Thanks to Jeff Johnson.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gviciano/
For more information, see my Family Child Care Legal and Insurance Guide.