Is it dangerous not to play dangerously?

Dangerous play.

We all do it don’t we? Look back upon the past with rose coloured tinted glasses. “It was such a simpler time back then, without this health and safety to worry about?”

As a child of the late seventies and eighties, I remember this maypole; when I first used it, I was not tall enough to reach the chains. So, my dad would help me up and start me off…..Big boys and girls would then arrive, and I would be stuck in an ever growing gyro circle…….going around and around….the speed dictated by the screaming and excited big boys and girls around me. My arms would then feel tired……I need to let go while at full speed……! Will my peers slow down and help me off………?

No way! Their fun was in is seeing me drop!

Where was my Dad? No where to be seen of course…..

So I would plan my “calculated accident” by letting go and hoping for the best…..making sure to miss the angry concrete floor directly underneath me and hoping not to land on dog mess…….

Oh what fun……..?

The reality is our generation of the 1970’s and 80’s faced the highest recorded rates of death and serious injury from playgrounds, we grew up in risk laden dangerous times; We would negotiate risk of serious injury from the home to the playgrounds and also for good measure, long term health problems from passive smoking on buses and trains.

Thankfully, following an analysis in Sheffield led by the late Cynthia Illingworth, this led to changes; for example, the introduction of impact absorbing surfaces, equipment entrapment avoidance, height restrictions and guardrails.

However, we all know it went too far……setting up my first provision in the late 2007, we were audited on our risk assessment of our outdoor provisions……reminded children should avoid play that could be dangerous or risky……. As parents of young children, we already knew little ones (boys and girls) are inclined to take risks when playing. Partly due to lack of understanding and partly for the just the sheer enjoyment!

So our ethos has always been to manage risk versus benefits; to allow children to learn to play in an environment where they can push their gross and finer motor skills and to take cognitive and tacit decisions, to learn individually , what is safe and not safe, rather than doctrine.

Learning through play on “how not to get injured” and minor scrapes and bumps reinforces their skill sets, allowing them to reflect.

It is great to see a change in mood of risky play; I believe risky play it is an essential for our youngest in learning and development of their understanding of the world around them. Managed properly, children will enjoy what they believe to be a risky activity, when in fact risk assessments are in place to “minimize the risk of harm.”