‘Risky’ Playgrounds Are Making a Comeback
The modern playground has become mind-numbingly standard-issue. There’s a movement afoot to bring “adventure” back into play.
The information age has ushered in an era of fear about children’s well-being, shifting norms heavily towards constant oversight and nearly impossible standards of safety. One casualty of that trend has been the playground, which has become mind-numbingly standard-issue—with the same type of plastic swing sets and slides—designed to minimize harm, rather than maximize enjoyment.
Over the last few years, however, pushback against the overly sanitized playground has grown considerably, with new research supporting the importance of play—especially unstructured play—for early childhood development. Critics also argue that concerns about actual harm are overstated. These findings have raised questions about playground design. Is the current playground model fostering creativity, independence, and problem-solving? What does risk really mean—and when is it OK? What can alternatives to current play spaces look like? And how can their benefits extend to all children in a city? Architects, researchers, childhood development specialists, and parents are weighing in on these questions around the world, and outlining a new vision for the future of play.
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