At a Fitzroy childcare service, children are encouraged in risky play and preschoolers are lighting fires in outdoor fire pits.
5-year-old Remy, strucks a match and ignites a scrunched up piece of newspaper in the outdoor fire pit.
A couple of years ago, the early childhood service introduced fire to the children. It started with candles in jars at mealtimes before moving onto weekly outdoor fires.
Children have learnt how to extinguish flames with a bucket of water, monitor heat by carefully tapping the firepit with the backs of their hands and cook jaffles on the coals.
Most importantly, Educators say they’ve learnt how to play safely around the fire.
“It definitely is still somewhat controversial in early education services" said Centre Director, Kate Higginbottom. "We know we have regulations, but they don’t involve eliminating all risks."
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade questioned whether such young children could retain information about fire safety.
“MFB does not deliver structured fire safety programs to children below primary school age. This decision is based on research which found that children under five experienced a low retention rate for the information taught,” she said.
The benefits of this approach to risky play are highlighted in research by University of Newcastle academics and early childhood educators, who found exposing children to risk boosted their confidence, teamwork skills and awareness of safety and danger.
Cook, Henrietta "Playing With Fire: The Childcare Centres Exposing Children To Risk" The Age, 13th July 2019