April 20, 2023

Strategies to Foster Risk Taking During Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is part of developmentally appropriate practice, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children spend 60 minutes daily working their large muscles.

To support children in their outdoor play, early childhood educators can reframe their views of risk taking by acknowledging the developmental benefits of taking risks and working to remove barriers and boundaries that limit open, free play.

The National Association for the Education of Young Child (NAEYC) has provided the following five strategies to help early childhood educators foster risk taking in play:

Examine Existing Beliefs

Educators’ personal experiences and perceptions inform their actions and reactions to a child engaged in risky play. Educators can reflect on their own beliefs by asking certain questions to gauge how they champion or avoid risking taking. Taking time to self reflect in this way can help educators to determine how to foster risk and gauge the limitations they may place on risk taking and play.

Those introspective questions can include:

  • Am I a risk taker?
  • What worries me about taking risks?
  • What excites me about taking risks?
  • What childhood memories do I have of taking a risk?

Get to Know the Child and Environment

Teachers and children are familiar with their programs’ outdoor play spaces. Thanks to this familiarity, educators can evaluate the terrain and the safety of each structure and piece of equipment, including asking essential questions like:

  • How might each child navigate the space?
  • What hurdles may they face?
  • What kind of support may I need to offer?
  • When should I offer it?

Become an Observer

Outdoor spaces are designed to foster running, jumping, swinging, climbing, and moving over uneven terrain. As children move, early childhood educators should pay attention to their fine and large motor abilities, taking note when a child hesitates or pauses while engaged in a task or with others. Through observation, teachers will develop an understanding of a child’s ability to appraise and respond to risk.

Model and Encourage

Children grow in their ability to appraise risk by observing others’ play and movement. Educators can support risk taking by engaging in it themselves and expressing their thoughts verbally. This models the internal dialogue that occurs when assessing risks and challenges.

Such modeling can help children learn self-regulation as they examine their thoughts and feelings and determine their next steps.

When to Intervene

While acknowledging that risk taking is developmentally appropriate and a healthy part of early childhood, educators often find themselves in a paradox: they want to foster risky play and urge children to step out of their comfort zones, but they also must ensure safety.

Educators should insert themselves in a risky play scenario if:

  • the level of risk could lead to serious injury;
  • a child demonstrates emotional distress or fear; or
  • the structure or environment is hazardous (ice on play surfaces, broken glass, construction).

Learn More

To learn more about developmentally appropriate practices for early childhood development and education, be sure to visit the Trying Together Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series.


August 24, 2020

Early Childhood Garden Education Program Available

Interested in integrating garden and cooking activities into its classroom curriculum? Submit your application today for Grow Pittsburgh and the Sampson Foundation’s Early Childhood Garden Education Program.


Grow Pittsburgh and the Sampson Foundation are offering an Early Childhood Garden Education Program for early childhood centers across the Pittsburgh region. Gardens are outdoor classrooms that are adaptable to most play yards and are designed to fit the space and needs of each center.

The program will integrate garden and cooking activities into the classroom curriculum to support the development and education of the whole child. The partnership aims to support educators in teaching their students how to grow, cook, and eat fresh food while celebrating the cultures and experiences of their families and city. To learn more about the program, view the full description.


To be eligible for this program, early childhood centers must:

    • complete and submit the application (parts 1-6, including photos);
    • be located in Allegheny County;
    • be an early childhood facility (includes: family, group, and center) licensed in Pennsylvania;
    • have at least five organized and motivated people in your garden leadership group (can include staff and parents, but must include at least three teachers interested in supporting the program), exceptions made for smaller facilities;
    • have signatures of support from both the director and head custodian;
    • have a sustainable site for gardening on the property that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day with supporting photos for the completion of Part 3 (Grow Pittsburgh can provide support);
    • have enrollment that includes at least 50 percent of children receiving subsidized funds through CCIS, CACFP, Head Start, or Pre-K Counts.

If your program doesn’t meet these criteria, please submit as much information as possible and program hosts will work to help you in alternative ways.

Submit An Application

To apply, complete and submit the application. Applications can be submitted via email at or postal mail at:

Grow Pittsburgh
6587 Hamilton Ave #2W
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

More Information

For general application questions and assistance, please contact Victoria Thurmond at 678.977.9389 or


April 27, 2020

Exploring the Outdoor World Through Our Senses

The outside world shapes children’s development through everyday, hands-on experiences. In this free online session, participants will explore ways to facilitate sensory experiences in outdoor play including natural materials in the outdoor environment, reusable loose parts, and classroom materials. Participants will discover the benefits of learning through the five senses and explore meaningful ways to encourage sensory learning with young children.

Course Information

    • Timeline: May 4 – 24, 2020
    • Trainer: Katie Gullone
    • CKC: K2.4C2
    • Keystone STARS Alignment: SQ. 3.4.9
    • CDA Subject Area: Planning a safe and healthy learning environment.
    • Three PQAS and Act 48 hours available.


To register for this course, please visit the event registration page. All registrations must be submitted by May 1, 2020 at 5 p.m. Limited spots are available.

More Information

For more information, contact Jasmine Davis at 412.567.3933 or

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February 20, 2020

Nurturing Connection to Nature for Health and Wellness

Join APOST and Pittsburgh Parks Rx at the Frick Environmental Center on February 28 to learn how spending time in nature can support physical and mental wellness.


Attend this workshop to explore how to plan engaging experiences that nurture a connection to nature by incorporating active play and mindful reflection. Participants will try out activities, share ideas, and receive tools and resources to help you connect youth with nature in parks or any outdoor space! A light lunch will be provided and free parking will be available on site.


To register, visit the Eventbrite page.

More Information

For more information, contact APOST at 412.456.6876.


April 11, 2019

Walk In The Woods – Earth Day Edition

Join science teacher Brock Perkins and Winchester Thurston School North Campus Director Heather Capezzuti as they celebrate Earth Day. With energizing and interactive outdoor learning activities, and a walk through the woods on their 7-acre campus, it’s a fun event for the whole family.


This event is free but registration is required. Register online or by calling 412.578.7518 or emailing


April 5, 2019

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Earth Day

Friday, April 26

6 – 9 p.m. | Community Campfire*

Join Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for an all-ages community campfire under the stars. They’ll have the fire and sticks, you bring your own hot dogs and s’more fixings. Note: This event takes place at Falls Ravine Shelter (click here for directions to nearby trail entrance).

Saturday, April 27th

8 – 11 a.m. | Volunteer Event

Make a positive mark on your park as a volunteer! This event is held in partnership with Comcast.

This event is now full. Registrations are no longer being accepted.

11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. | Naturalist-led Walks and Hikes

Join Parks Conservancy naturalists and partners from across the city for a variety of hikes and walks throughout Frick Park. Hikes and walks are each about one hour long and start at 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Ongoing | Activities, Exhibits, and Events

Throughout Earth Day 2019, participants can also find and experience local exhibitors, organizations, and artists.

Activities include:

  • Nature play
  • Supervised tree climbing
  • Giant games
  • Pop-up Imagination Playground
  • Bubbles.

This event is held in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh.


If you’re looking to attend these Earth Day celebrations, Trying Together is providing free bus transportation! Registration is required.

  • Friday, April 26 | Bus departs from 7219 Kelly Street at 6 p.m.; returns at 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 27 | Bus departs from Homewood Avenue and Kelly Street at 1:30 p.m.; returns at 4:15 p.m.

To register for the bus, please contact Jan Jones by calling 412.421.3889, ext. 108 or by visiting the Homewood Early Learning Hub.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the event website!

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November 29, 2018

Schenley Park Skating Rink Open for Season

Sharpen and your skates and get ready to enjoy another action-packed season of ice skating at the Schenley Park Skating Rink.  The City of Pittsburgh’s outdoor rink is now open and offers a variety of skating sessions, lessons, and special events.

Special Sessions

The rink operates seven days a week and offers a variety of public sessions and lessons, including:

  • Family Skate:
    Thursdays from 6:30 – 9 p.m. One child free with each paying adult (adult admission $5). All children must be accompanied by paying adults.
  • College ID Sessions:
    Tuesdays from 9:30 – 11:30 p.m.; Wednesdays from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 7 – 9 p.m. Present a valid college ID and save one dollar on admission (college student admission $4 during these sessions).
  • Adults Only Sessions (18+):
    Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 9:30 – 11:30 p.m.

Special Events

Over the winter, the rink will host several special events including:

  • Skate with Santa
    Sunday, December 16 (1:30 – 3:30 p.m.)
  • Mascot Skate
    Saturday, January 12 (1:30 – 3:30 p.m.)
  • Disco Night
    Saturday, February 2 (9:30 – 11:30 p.m.) – adults only
  • Valentines On Ice
    Thursday, February 14, (7 – 10 p.m.) – adults only

Admission Costs

Admission to the Schenley Park Skating Rink is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $4 for veterans, and $3 for children 17 years old or younger. Skate rental is $3 and skate sharpening is $5. Schenley Skating Rink accepts credit cards, Google Pay and Apple Pay.

For more information, call 412-422-6523 or visit

*Information provided by The City of Pittsburgh*