There is ongoing talk, and extensive research that points towards the negative effects on our children where there has been no opportunity for them to partake in risky and challenging activity.
Children are so often thwarted with “slow down”, “be careful” and “no” during play, with so many rules in schools and limits in challenging playground design. With limited challenge and stimulation, children are becoming more sedentary, leading to far greater health risks than skinned knees. And the statistics show that overly safe playgrounds are not having any positive impact on injury incident rates.
The new Australian Playground Standards released earlier this year acknowledges risk taking as an essential feature of play and healthy childhood development. Risk is not ignored by any means, however the balance of risk v’s benefit has been more greatly considered to promote active outdoor play and to experience risk in a still safe environment. Promoting fun and enjoyment over risk aversion and developing negotiating skills, resilience, self regulation, coordination and a generally healthy wellbeing where children are exposed to elements of risk.
I have read some great articles recently that are helping bring some common sense back to the way children play. No-one wants to see their child hurt, however the long term benefits of exposing them to risk during play are too great to ignore.
Cassandra Wilkinson wrote – “Let Kids be Kids” – a fantastic piece that takes us back to our own childhoods relating to some of the risky things we all no doubt did and quotes Tom Mullarkey, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) saying “A skinned knee or a twisted ankle in a challenging and exciting play environment is not only acceptable, it is a positive necessity to educate our children and to prepare them for a complex, dangerous world”. (see link below)
In addition, a paper written by Helen Little and Shirley Wyver in 2008, clearly demonstrates just how much a child develops essential life skills through play. Outdoor Play. Does avoiding the risks reduce the benefits? quotes “If children are to continue to have access to and benefit from a wide range of stimulating and challenging outdoor play experiences, then a reconsideration of attitudes and approaches to policy and practice … is necessary” (see link below)
The new Playground Standard has moved towards an allowance for more risk taking in play, which we hope will lead to a more positive acceptance in the education sectors and public spaces that encourages children to play as children should.
Let Kids be Kids
Outdoor Play – Does avoiding the Risks Reduce the Benefits?.