GLEEFUL three-year-olds have been throwing caution to the winds as part of a woodland study investigating the benefits of taking risks during playtime.

Together with a team of psychologists, Sussex Wildlife Trust is letting children light fires, cook over the campfire, and practise sawing, drilling and den building.

Academics from the University of Sussex want to see how risk-taking helps children manage anxieties and build self-esteem.

The long-term study, led by Dr Kathryn Lester, measures the emotional wellbeing of parents and children before and after play sessions.

Sue Curnock, nature tots officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Everything is assessed for safety first. But we let the children leap across logs, tight-rope walk, and cross muddy trenches on planks holding sticks like ski-poles for balance.

“All the while they are learning about how to calculate risks — and their parents are learning, too. They’re always so amazed to see how self-sufficient their kids can be. The children begin to associate nervous feelings like a quick heart rate in a positive way, as excitement rather than fear.

“With our children now facing problems such as ‘Facebook depression’, physical inactivity and social isolation, a grazed knee is a small price to pay for the potential benefits of risky play.”