Encouraging risk taking in playgrounds

Why local councils should prioritise play equipment that encourages adventure, development and risk taking in playgrounds.

Playgrounds are an essential part of any community, providing children with a space to play, socialise, and learn. However, some local councils have a conservative approach to risk taking in playgrounds and may seek to limit or remove elements of risk or challenge. Nonetheless, research by the UK Play Safety Forum has shown that taking risks in a playground can have several benefits for children. In this article, we’ll explore some of the benefits of risk in a children’s playground.

Improved Physical Development

Encouraging children to take risks in a playground can promote their overall physical development. Activities such as climbing, running, and jumping help to build strength, balance, and coordination. These skills are essential for a child’s overall health and wellbeing, and it is essential that they are prioritised in the design and implementation of playground equipment.

Enhanced Cognitive Development

Risk-taking activities in a playground can also enhance a child’s cognitive development. When children engage in play that involves risk, they must use problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities. This helps to build their overall cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, and creativity. Designing playgrounds to include equipment that promotes such activities can have long-term benefits for the cognitive development of children.

Improved Self-Confidence and Resilience

Promoting risk-taking in playgrounds can also have a positive impact on a child’s social and emotional development. By taking risks and succeeding, children build self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. They also learn to bounce back from failures and setbacks, building resilience and emotional strength. Local councils can encourage the creation of playgrounds that facilitate such opportunities for children to develop these essential life skills.

Promotes Socialisation

Risk-taking activities in a playground can also promote socialisation among children. When children engage in play that involves risk, they often work together and support each other. This can help to build strong friendships and a sense of community among children. Local councils can consider these social benefits when designing and implementing playgrounds, promoting their importance as a tool for community-building.

Provides a Sense of Adventure

Finally, allowing children to take risks in a playground provides a sense of adventure that is vital for their overall wellbeing. Children who engage in risky play are often more engaged and excited about play, which can help to promote a lifelong love of physical activity. Local councils can play an essential role in fostering this sense of adventure, by promoting playgrounds that are safe but also provide opportunities for children to explore and take risks.

In conclusion, while there may be some risks associated with allowing children to engage in adventurous play in a playground, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Local councils can promote the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of children by prioritising the creation of playgrounds that facilitate risk-taking activities. By doing so, they can contribute to the growth and wellbeing of children in their communities.

Further reading:

Managing Risk in Play Provision

Physical Activity Facilities article by Mark Hardy, Chairman of the API

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