Risky play considerations afflict much of contemporary childhood discourses, with such play being promoted as inherent to children and beneficial to their development. Furthermore, from a Canadian context, promotion of “reasonable” risk-taking is identified as a responsibility of educators by the College of Early Childhood Educators’ Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (2017) and across provincial early learning curricula documents (in particular in Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec). Drawing on Foucauldian discourse analysis, I unpack technologies of governmentality, including discipline, rationalization, and observation, in the way risky play is configured in dominant discourses of early childhood learning. I contend that in the way it is currently understood and promoted, risky play forwards a neoliberal figure of an independent, enterprising and prepared child. Pedagogically, such discourses uphold anthropocentrism and foreclose the possibilities of more-than-human relationships central to formation of pedagogies able to address problems of the 21st century including the climate crisis. Broadly, by centering play as socio-politically constructed, this article adds to the analysis of governmentalization of childhoods. Considering the influence early learning curricula documents hold over regimes of professional practice and milieu of early childhood education, such analyses and critiques remain an important ongoing responsibility for curriculum and education scholars.

Author: Tatiana Zakharova-Goodman

Published in: Canada International Conference on Education, 2023

  • Date of Conference: 26-28 June, 2023
  • DOI: 10.20533/CICE.2023.0022
  • Electronic ISBN: 978-1-913572-58-7
  • Conference Location: Residence and Conference Centre, Toronto, Canada