There’s a fine line between challenge and hazard – but the perfect balance is actually a little of both.
Articles are produced every other day discussing the lack of risk in our children’s lives compared to 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago! Risk has its rewards, and a healthy amount of calculated risk is always better than none.
Some say playgrounds need to be safer but increasingly the question is being asked, “Are we making playgrounds too safe?”
The danger of over protecting our children is that they lose the benefits of risk taking. We need to take risks to grow. We need to understand boundaries. And every now and then we need to step over those boundaries to understand limits.
Understanding the benefits of risk can make it easier to let go a little, and let kids be kids. The benefits include:
- Building confidence
- Promoting balance and coordination
- Understanding limits and overcoming obstacles
- Assessing situations and making judgements
- Learning to correctly handle objects safely
- Understanding consequences to action/ risk and reward
- Creativity and problem solving
In Australia, we have a robust set of safety standards which address key risk issues and set a reasonable balance. These Standards continue to evolve as play equipment is constantly being developed.
Further afield, schools in the UK and Africa piece together ‘Adventure Playgrounds’ with whatever resources they can find – from tyres to wooden beams and everything in between – to ensure there is always an opportunity for physical movement and imaginative play. Here in Australia, what constitutes play equipment that fits the brief is a much more regimented approach. Some might even argue that the playgrounds we know today, limit the play experience so much that injury can happen out of misuse due to boredom.
Like most people who look back fondly on their playground years, the beauty of play was finding unconventional ways to use play equipment. Hoarding grass clippings in a cubby house to trade for leaves in our pretend shops or using a rogue tyre as the ‘safe’ spot in ‘Go home, stay home’. Have we eliminated resourcefulness in our younger generation?
Developing equipment for public use is, and should be, done with all the relevant standards in mind. This is more than just “How high can the equipment be?”, the Australian Standards cover material types, heights, undersurfacing, maintenance and more.
The harsh line of ‘safe playground’ equipment is becoming more and more blurry as those who once held firm on what constituted ‘dangerous’ equipment, start to understand the importance of risk. While swings, flying foxes and super high climbing nets once made people very nervous – we’ve reached a new era of play which promotes challenge.
a_space are excited to be a part of the ever changing landscape of playground design. Safety is paramount when we approach the design of new products, however we’re focussed on ensuring fun and challenge are not lost!
Calculated risk will always provide more developmental learning benefits than over-bearing safety conscientiousness. Want to add a little risk to your space? Why not consider an Explorer Net. Innovation, quality, usability and fun were key drivers in the development of the Explorer Nets range.
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