Any parent likes to know that a playground is safe for their children to use. But over time these recreational areas have changed so much it begs the question of whether they are as much fun anymore. Often structures are just not so inviting and resemble something more reminiscent of a military assault course than a kids play area.
Gone are the fun merry go-rounds and scary thin slides that seemed to go on forever. In their place are nets, ropes, wooden and plastic structures that all seem a little too clinical to be associated with having a good and reckless time.
No Thrills & Spills
Over recent times reports published in top newspapers have pointed out how playgrounds may look brilliant but in truth kids didn’t find them too much fun to play in. The reason being that recreational areas were just too safe – they offer children no spills and thrills at all, the reason why kids found them boring.
Playgrounds have been made so safe because authorities and some parents have a real fear of their children hurting themselves. With fears of inevitable litigation suits following injuries, Health & Safety and planners went into ‘safe mode’.
The trend for safer play areas has meant that children no longer find them stimulating or thrilling to be in. The result? Kids are less inclined to want to play outdoors and there’s a knock-on effect to contend with. Both physical and emotional development is affected by the lack of interest in ‘playing’ in playgrounds. To compound the problem further, kids are now becoming overweight and in certain cases this means to the point of being obese.
Kids Need to Learn How to Take Risks
A playground needs to have an adventurous and risky feel to it, with thrills and spills together with a few knocks now and again – that’s what children want to experience in a playground. Sadly, a few parents out there don’t agree. But what these parents forget in their over-protective approach to their children is that a playground is the perfect environment for their offspring to learn how to take risks. Super safe play areas are boring environments that may look pretty but that’s about it – they don’t teach a child anything.
Health & Safety and Playground Planners
Unfortunately, the rules and regulations laid down by Health & Safety, make it very hard for playground designers and planners to create an area that is at the same time safe for children to play in and yet provide them with the thrill they naturally enjoy. Playground designs look great with loads of smart equipment but children don’t actually want to play on them. When they do, this same equipment offers children no real physical benefit at all.
Urban planners agree that building a playground area which is both safe and thrilling for children to play in, should not be an impossible task. Even if there was a perception of risk involved, children would be more likely to play on the equipment and as such they would be encouraged to take more physical exercise.
A Fine balancing Act
The problem is that children do hurt themselves in playgrounds and this obviously means they have to be made safer environments to play in. However, there’s a fine balancing act that needs to be assessed so play areas become safe and thrilling all at the same time. If a play area is too safe, the question is what good does it serve?
Playgrounds are supposed to be fun; thrilling places where children can learn to socialise and take a few risks. Playgrounds need equipment that provides kids with a real sense of adventure. Health & Safety issues have taken away a fundamental part of this in an attempt to keep children safer. However, some of the consequences of children not wanting to play outdoors because playgrounds are boring could be considered just as bad as having a fall off a merry-go-round which includes child obesity.
Written by Natalie who recommends www.monsterplay.co.uk/ as a good supplier of playgrounds and who are fully compliant with the latest health and safety regulations.