Show or tell: How should educators and playworkers back up their real-time decisions about risk?

This post explores how the real-time decisions of educators, playworkers and other staff who oversee children fit into the overall risk management process, and how they are held to account for those decisions. I have written it at the suggestion of the UK Play Safety Forum. The PSF would welcome comments on the position set out here – as would I.

Bayonne Nursery School Forest School session

Bayonne Nursery Forest School session

I will start with describing a real-life scenario from a Forest School session run by Bayonne Nursery a few years ago. (Those who have heard me talk on risk will recognise it from a video clip that I often show.) A group of four-year-old children are exploring an area of woodland. After clearing away fallen branches from around a large tree trunk that crosses over a dry ditch, three girls start to shimmy across. Two succeed, while the third becomes alarmed and gives up. Forest school-trained educators, present throughout, do not intervene at any point – not even to give encouragement or warnings. This is despite the fact that at points, things look like they might be getting challenging, uncomfortable or even slightly dangerous.

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Playground head injuries: what does recent research show?

Fox news screengrab playground concussionsA medical study [pdf link] has just been published that looks at hospital emergency department (ED) visits for concussions (or to use the clinical term, traumatic brain injuries or TBIs) to children arising from playground incidents in the USA.

My aim in this post is to give a summary of the study and to scrutinize some of its conclusions. I plan in a future post to discuss its wider implications.

The study used data from a national injury surveillance system to work out injury rates for each year between 2001 and 2013. It also looked at whether or not children were admitted to hospital and the playground equipment involved, amongst other factors, and it analysed the data for trends. It claims to be the first national study on playground-related TBIs since 1999.

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Pope Francis to Parents: Thou Shalt Free-Range | Free Range Kids

Pope FrancisHere’s a quote from Pope Francis’ Statement on the Family, published a couple of weeks ago and highlighted yesterday on Lenore Skenazy’s website:

Obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience… If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy.

I am a non-believer myself. Even so, this is well worthy of a reblog. Full credit to the Pope for giving such a clear statement on the need for parents to give children some space and time to make their own journey to becoming responsible, confident, competent and resilient people. It speaks directly to the value of everyday freedoms in childhood. And hats off to Lenore for spotting and sharing.

Source: Pope Francis to Parents: Thou Shalt Free-Range | Free Range Kids

Sir Ken Robinson speaks on outdoor play

Screengrab of Sir Ken RobinsonEducationalist Sir Ken Robinson, known to millions for his work on creativity in schools, yesterday shared his thoughts on outdoor play.

The 20-minute talk, in a video recorded as part of the Dirt is Good campaign sponsored by Persil (in the UK) and Omo (in many other countries), gives some powerful messages to parents about why play matters for children’s development and learning. This post shares some edited highlights from the talk. You can stream the full talk at the end of the post.

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The Mary Poppins playground kit

This post shares an idea from a parent who was frustrated that her kids were finding it hard to have much fun in their local playgrounds. I’ve called it the Mary Poppins playground kit, for reasons that should become obvious.

2 bags of play items

At the end of this post, I will say more about why I like the Mary Poppins playground kit so much. First, the idea itself, in the words of the parent herself (whose chosen name is Djindjer): Continue reading

Playground claim thrown out in landmark court judgement

A claim for compensation after a playground accident has been rejected in a precedent-setting legal case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The civil claim was made against the municipality of Saanich, following an accident during a game of ‘grounders’ (a chase game played on and around fixed play equipment that my daughter and her London friends would know better as ‘off-ground touch’).

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Returning to the Antipodes

I am heading back to Australia and New Zealand in around three weeks, and am pleased to share some reflections, along with my schedule.

My trip takes in a flying visit to Auckland, followed by a week in Adelaide, before finishing with another week in Queensland. I will be joined in QLD by David Bond (kindred spirit, documentary film-maker, star of Project Wild Thing and self-appointed Marketing Director of Nature). A full itinerary is at the end of this post.

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