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Risk Assessments in the Early Years

Keeping children safe in the early years


Risk assessments are no longer a requirement of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for childminders in England. However, all early years providers must take children’s safety very seriously whether we are in the house, garden or on outings.

It is advised that all childminders have risk assessments to cover, for example –

  • Inside the house.
  • Garden / outside spaces.
  • Outings – regular and one-off.
  • Toys and equipment.
  • Fire safety etc.


The aims are that all children...

  • Learn more about safety – and the benefits of taking risks when they are carefully managed.
  • Begin to manage their own safety.
  • Are supported to manage their own safety in a range of situations.
  • Are kept safe and healthy as they engage in various fun, interesting and appropriate activities through the year.


Risk assessment planning: here are some ideas for planning a risk assessment day which can be used over and over again when reminding children about the risks associated with their play –

  • Write or type up some safety checklists, print and put onto clipboards.
  • Set up some posed hazards such as a spiky leaf in the garden, an uncovered socket or toys in front of the door.
  • Provide safety hard hats for the children to wear.
  • Go for a walk around the house or garden, considering the various risks and helping the children to decide what action needs to be taken.  Younger children can draw the risks and their solutions while older children might like to write things down to share with their parents later.
  • 999 - older children can learn their home addresses and how to recognise and ring 999 from various phones. However, they need to be old enough to fully understand the dangers of making prank calls.
  • Stranger danger - you can plan lots of activities (I usually use traditional stories in books such as ‘3 little pigs’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’) to support children’s understanding of strangers and how to be safe when on outings. Again, put children in charge of their learning… ask them lots of open questions which encourage them to think about different scenarios and keep themselves safe.

Age-related risk assessment: it is also important to consider risks depending on the ages of the children in your care. for example, you might note that –

  • A baby might roll off a high surface.
  • A toddler might fall when climbing and need extra support.
  • An inquisitive 2-year-old might burn themselves in the kitchen.
  • A 3-year-old might climb too high on a frame at the park.
  • A child who has autism might ‘melt down’ and need a cosy space in which to sit and calm etc.

Again, these risk assessments do not need to be on a form called ‘risk assessment for child’s name’ but you must be able to explain to Ofsted and parents how you keep children safe and, of course, they might be part of your observations, assessments and individual planning.


Stage-appropriate risk assessment: sometimes, you might find that a child who has not been exposed to risk in the home environment will not have an age-appropriate understanding of risky play. for example, a 3-year-old might not have been taught about the dangers of eating playdough because he has never played with it at home. Early years providers must know the child and what they have previously done and be stage of development as well as age-appropriate when considering risk.


Format of risk assessments: the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that risk assessment should follow the following format:

  1. Hazard – what might cause an accident?
  2. Risk – what might happen to the baby, child or adult?
  3. Level of risk – it is likely someone will be hurt?
  4. Control – what have you put in place to help stop an injury?
  5. Review date – when do you intend to review the risk assessment?


Conclusion: while early years providers are no longer legally required to write risk assessments, providers still need to do them. We do not want to be sued in 20 years’ time because a baby was hurt while with us and the scar is preventing them from being a model or sued now because we left a trip hazard at the top of the stairs and a child tumbled down or questioned by police because we knew a child was likely to run off during an outing but we failed to risk assess and use reins.

It is important to do a risk assessment – be confident when explaining risk assessments to parents and passing Ofsted inspectors – know the reporting procedures if a child has an accident – ensure insurance and first aid training is always up to date – check first aid kits regularly – take every opportunity to ensure children’s safety – blow the whistle if you see dangerous practice in other settings.

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