Risky Play in Islington
When designing an outdoor play area one of the most important things to do is create a balance between fun and safety. This may mean anything from deciding to lower the monkey bars slightly to using asphalt rather than wood chippings, but Islington Council have decided the children need to be allowed to take a few more risks. Obviously they have not set out to design playgrounds that specifically put children in danger, but rather they are looking to deliver play opportunities that enable them to challenge themselves and learn to stretch their abilities in a contained environment.
They are the first local authority in England to formally adopt guidelines that recognise the need for children to experience an element of risk trough play. These guidelines will be applicable to all play areas within the council’s control, including those within parks, children’s centres and housing estates.
In 2008 a study was carried out by Play England, a strong supporter of Islington Council’s decision, in which it was found that nearly half of all children had been banned from climbing trees and 21% from playing with conkers. Adrian Voce, the director of Play England, argued that by stopping children from playing outside and taking risks parents were preventing them from becoming independent and experiencing new things (Guardian, 2012). Voce also stressed the fact that risk-taking can help children make better judgements in the future and that they didn’t need protecting all the time – sometimes accidents happen.
If you are looking to incorporate risky play into your learning environment then have a look at our blog post about the Forest School Approach, which is an idea from Sweden that involves outdoor learning and learning through testing boundaries.