Risk is inherent in natural environments and children thrive when they have opportunities to experience healthy risk-taking during play. I believe educators and children are competent and capable of assessing and managing risks and benefits. However, US state and national standards often reflect a desire to eliminate all possible risks for children.
For example, The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is proposing stricter playground standards that require schools to install more costly resistant surfacing to allegedly prevent head injuries. Tim Gill, a leading UK childhood thinker, has been describing the issue on his blog (Playground safety: troubling new move from ASTM) and injury-prevention experts discuss the flaws in the proposed changes to the safety standards here. These standards affect millions of children throughout the world, are not consistently driven by evidence-based research, and can actually create more dangerous and less productive learning environments for children.
- How appropriate are the standards and regulations that affect outdoor time with children?
- How can the Children and Nature Network use its resources and expertise to advocate for appropriate risk and benefit analysis of outdoor environments and playgrounds?
*For those interested in more research regarding risky play, here is a study from 2012 that describes how children benefit from risk and opportunities to manage challenges (Risky Play and Children’s Safety: Balancing Priorities for Optimal ...). Tim Gill has also written an excellent book that I recommend (free pdf!) called No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society that further discusses the dangers associated with not providing children time for free play and healthy risk-taking outdoors.
This is a serious matter which has been rumbling on for a while now. I think it is important that lots of people do speak up and out. I believe details are on the Tim Gill blog posts you have referenced.
Thanks for raising the issue on this forum.