Playgrounds in Australia tend to have similar look about them. Plastic slides painted in primary colours, a springy toy that often doesn’t spring, and a token swing set in a sea of chip bark. I remember this one playground at Warwick we discovered as a family on one of our road trips, and it was so refreshingly different because it was an older playground and had play equipment the kids hadn’t seen before. An old fashioned merry-go-round was in one corner, a wide metal climbing frame in another, and if you drew a triangle between three points, the tall-tall slide would be found at the third point.
Health and safety regulations are there to protect our children, but in a world increasingly afraid of litigation, it has become easier to install one size fits all play equipment rather than innovative, custom playgrounds that work within the natural environment.
Is it healthy to impose a top-down approach on our children’s play, driven often by standardisation? Or can a little risk in play actually be a good thing?
Recently I discovered Infinite Playgrounds in the UK – a collaboration of artists and educators that are breaking the mould in playground design.
The designers at Infinite Playgrounds believe it’s possible to find the right balance between risk and safety – their bespoke, natural and unique playground creations allow children’s imaginations to run wild. I found the playgrounds so stunningly inspirational, and I wanted to share them here.
Infinite Playgrounds design spaces that complement the existing environment. They make use of hills and banks, installing slides or waterfall streams. Where trees have been felled, they create natural climbing structures. The opportunities for active and imaginative play are endless. Be inspired by some of their incredible playground designs:
“Playgrounds should be built in a way that allows children to manage risks and become independent learners. This leaves the traditional idea of play equipment behind and moves forward to exciting and challenging spaces for children to play, with managed risk that is justified by the high play value children gain from our natural elements such as our climbing trees.”
— Sam McGeever, Creative Director, Infinite Playgrounds
“Play areas should challenge children to the limits of their own abilities; a child of three will access a playground very differently to a child of five or eleven years, and again differently for a confident child of three to one who may be more cautious or have a developmental delay. Therefore it is essential that play equipment is exciting and open-ended in order to develop with children, supporting and scaffolding their natural ability.”
— Helen Law, Creative Director, Infinite Playgrounds
“We must be careful that health and safety laws don’t prevent child-led, explorative play, which give children risk management skills and confidence that last throughout their lives. The world is full of hazards and children need to learn to assess and respond to them in order to protect themselves. Risks have value in that they can be an opportunity for learning and for this reason they should not be eliminated altogether.”
— Joanne Law, Early Years Consultant, Infinite Playgrounds
The longer I parent, the more I believe in the importance in NOT compartmentalising our children into the boxes society often provides. I touched on this when I wrote about our favourite play spaces (and why they weren’t playgrounds). And yet — YES — there is absolutely the need for (the right kind of) research into safety and the establishment of general guidelines to protect our kids. There needs to be a balance and it needs to be motivated by caring for kids, not the bottom line or fear.
It’s a conversation worth having.
I love this quote from Joanne Law: We must be careful that health and safety laws don’t prevent child-led, explorative play, which give children risk management skills and confidence that last throughout their lives.
When I look at the Infinate Playground designs and read about their philosophy, I see a good and true balance; it inspires me, and fills me with hope for a world that truly cares about the wholistic development and wellbeing of this new generation we are raising.
The Building Process
Check out more of the building process over on the Infinite Playground Facebook page.
Do you think modern playgrounds serve our children well?
Share with us how you manage risk in your child’s play time.
Infinite Playgrounds on Facebook – great pics, inspiration and behind the scenes