Friday, October 22, 2010

Playground challenge -v- safety

A recently released report that discusses outside play ...

One from Helen Little, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University Sydney -

The report discusses the tensions between providing children with risk and challenge in their outside play environments - and - the aim of regulators to restrict children's exposure to hazards.

The report includes results from a survey of early childhood practitioners which found that while practitioners believed in the importance of providing 'risky' play opportunities, they felt constrained by the regulatory environment.
Helen included some discussion in relation to equipment height and fall zone requirments of the Australian Standards and the difficulties of providing a range of play options and ensuring adequate safe fall zones.

I would like to acknowledge that although providing risky play can appear to contradict the aims of the Standards, it is still possible. In fact, the Standards themselves acknowledge children's need for 'risky' play.

Slopes and mounds can provide height without the need for safety surfacing and also allow 'out of control' somersaults for example. Rocks and boulders can be used to retain the slope and become a climbing challenge. I would also like to point out that in most circumstances, fall zones can overlap, suggesting a possible misinterpretation of the Standards among early childhood professionals and possibly regulatory inspectors.

Another important point to make is that the Standards also provide clear design guidance about contouring and landscaping -

AS 2155-1982, 4.3 Landscaping – A flat featureless & treeless playground should be avoided. Wherever possible the natural landscape & suitable trees should be retained.
AS/NZS 4486.1:1997, Design of playground – Where a site is deficient in natural assets the design should provide contouring, grassing, planting with appropriate shrubs & trees, screening & variety of surfaces and changes of level.
These are important requirements that are often neglected.

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