In the cultural conversation about play and risk, adventure playgrounds – proper ones I mean, with timber structures, tools, junk materials and skilled workers – are very much on the radical side of the argument. But how dangerous are they, really?
One American school has conducted a natural experiment that helps to answer this question. And the results – set out in a report from the leading playwork group Pop-Up Adventure Play – cast doubt on standard approaches and thinking.
Parish school in Houston, Texas is a private school for children with a range of disabilities and conditions. It is highly unusual in that it has, on one site, two very different types of play space.
Parish School adventure playground. Photo: Alex Cote
Adventure play is enjoying a moment. And at the centre of this is The Land, an adventure playground in Wrexham, North Wales. So it is great to see a 14-minute documentary feature on The Land – from US filmmaker Erin Davis – being made freely available online. Click on the image below to watch it.
It was Hanna Rosin’s 2014 Atlantic magazine cover story ‘The Overprotected Kid’ that thrust The Land into the public eye. It also features prominently in the new book Messy by Tim Harford, writer and self-styled ‘undercover economist’ (and front man for one of my favourite BBC Radio 4 shows, More or Less). Harford’s take is revealing: Continue reading
Posted in Education, Outdoor play, play, playground, Risk
Tagged Adventure playground, education, Lady Allen, outdoor education, outdoor learning, outdoor play, playwork, Risk, The Land, Tim Harford, video
How often do you hear that the ‘health and safety culture’ cannot be resisted? That fear of litigation makes people unwilling to accept the slightest possibility of accidents or injuries? The implication is that risk benefit assessment (RBA) – the balanced approach to risk management that I and others have developed – is a waste of time.
My response – that RBA is making a difference, and that the legal benchmark is to be reasonable, not to eliminate all risk – is sometimes met with scepticism or cynicism. “That may be true in theory,” the argument goes. “But in practice, as soon as a child is hurt and a claim comes in, the lawyers and the insurers just pay out, no matter what the merits of the case.”
This is why I am pleased to share the news that the charity Hackney Play Association has successfully fought off a claim after a playground accident, and that RBA was crucial to the outcome. The details were released yesterday on the Play Safety Forum (PSF) website – see below.
An adventure playground in Hackney
I was lucky enough to visit Emdrup – the world’s first adventure playground – on a study visit to Copenhagen in 2003, and I still remember its relaxed, low-tech, quietly self-assured ambience. It would be tantamount to a crime against children’s culture to stand by and see its spirit die as a result of bureaucratic whim.
Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer
Please do what you can. You can support the campaign by writing to Dorthe Rasmussen Kjær at firstname.lastname@example.org. More details are in the reblogged post.
You may want to highlight why it matters for children and young people of widely differing ages to be given the chance to play together. US psychologist Peter Gray has good things to say on this [pdf link].
For more on the adventure playground model and the debt it owes to Emdrup, see this 2014 Guardian article.
Hats off to Play England for sharing news of this campaign. And a hat-tip to Alex Smith at Playgroundology for prompting me to include the contact details here.
Please note the title of the blog post that follows has a typo: the correct Danish word is ‘Skrammellegepladsen’ (translation: junk playground).
Source: Save Skrammelselegepladsen i Emdrup | Love Outdoor Play
This post looks at fires, the value of fire in children’s play and learning, and the sometimes problematic attitudes and actions of the fire authorities. It starts with a personal anecdote. (Its timing on Bonfire Night is kind of coincidental, but kind of not.)
Here is a true gem from the archives of play: extended video footage of Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen is the foremost figure in the history of children’s play in the UK (I reviewed her classic Planning for Play – available as a pdf from the marvellous Playscapes blog – in a previous post). The video focuses on the staffed adventure playgrounds Lady Allen created in the 1960s and 1970s to provide play opportunities for disabled children, some of which continue today under the management of the charity Kids.
Some health warnings: at times the language used in the video to describe the children is old-fashioned, inappropriate, and even offensive to today’s ears – though in Lady Allen’s day the terms were standard. Also, the video is somewhat grainy and jumpy. Oh – and Lady Allen’s accent could cut glass at 20 paces. But do not let any of this put you off, or you will miss out on as clear a manifesto for adventurous play as you are ever likely to see.
How does Denmark’s capital city meet its children’s need for outdoor play – and what can other nations learn from its approach? For a well-researched, gloriously detailed, beautifully presented answer, look no further than a new report from Australian architect Tanya Vincent.