Tag Archives: playwork

A rare glimpse into a messy oasis of adventure play

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.

The Land video screengrab

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

A small but potentially significant win for risk benefit assessment

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

An adventure playground in Hackney

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The R word: risk, uncertainty and the possibility of adverse outcomes in play

Let’s say that, like me, you are signed up to the idea that we’ve become too overprotective and anxious about children in their play. What language should we use to make the case for a better approach? In particular, does the word ‘risk’ – for instance, in the term ‘risky play’ – help or not?

Lunchtime at Beacon Rise Primary School

UK play advocate Adrian Voce – my successor at what became Play England – has questioned the use of the term ‘risk’. While recognising the progress that has been made on the place of risk in play, he says:

Although ‘risky’ and ‘adventurous’ are, in a sense, synonymous, the latter word has an unarguably more positive meaning. It also captures much better the essence of children at play – wanting to push the boundaries, test their limits and, sure, take some risks – but in the pursuit of fun and excitement, not the reckless endangerment that the term ‘risky play’ can evoke… ‘Risky’ cannot be the most appropriate word to describe the opportunities and environments we want to provide for them, or the practice we adopt in doing so.

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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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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

Save Emdrup Adventure Playground | Love Outdoor Play

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

Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer

Please do what you can. You can support the campaign by writing to Dorthe Rasmussen Kjær at dk@rysensteen.dk. 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

Dear politicians, playing children bring communities together – but they need you to protect their space

A timely, heartfelt yet reasoned response to recent political comment on children’s right to play, which I am happy to put my name to. Please share far and wide – and more importantly, please raise the issue with your local candidates. My thanks to Adrian, and to Penny Wilson of Play Association Tower Hamlets, for their hard work in pulling this together.

Policy for Play

Over 100 playworkers and play advocates have united to refute the UKIP claim that immigration stops children playing out together, and to highlight the real reasons for the decline in outdoor play.

This is a copy our letter, which is being sent to 3000 election candidates today, calling for government support for community play.

Play advocates are encouraged to adapt it with local examples and quotes from families to use in local campaigns*

*Please remove signatories if the letter is altered in any way.

Dear Candidate,

Following the recent assertion, from Nigel Farage of UKIP, that immigration divides communities to the extent that children can no longer play outside together, we would like to assure you that in our experience of supporting community play over many years, this is not true.

We would, however, like to highlight evidence of the real barriers to outdoor play.

Play is in some…

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