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Risky Play

By Peter Gray, PhD

Fear, you would think, is a negative experience, to be avoided whenever possible. Yet, as everyone who has a child or once was one knows, children love to play in risky ways—ways that combine the joy of freedom with just the right measure of fear to produce the exhilarating blend we identify as thrill.

A theme underlying my new Substack series is that Mother Nature (the goddess of natural selection) endowed us, especially when we are young, with strong drives to play in ways that have life-promoting benefits. So why, if that is true, did she endow children with a drive to flirt with danger in their play?

I’ll get to that, but first here’s a bit on the common forms of risky play observed in children worldwide.

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