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Rethinking Your Outdoor Spaces to Encourage Risky Play

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What makes children unique is that the smallest change to the well-known can provide a host of new ideas for play and learning.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Selecting activities and resources to inspire meaningful outdoor play can be challenging. Often Playspaces are shared between multi-aged groups, are awkward in shape or difficult to consider how to merge active and quiet experiences that don't have to compete for the same space.

It is often simplest to focus on the permanence of fixed equipment like swings or climbing equipment as they are ready to go, apart from the occasional maintenance. Children usually connect with what is familiar to them, even when it seems there can't be more than one way to use them.

What makes children unique is that the smallest change to the well-known can provide a host of new ideas for play and learning. This could also include the addition of activities and experiences available at selected times of the year to reflect the type of stimulation and play children seek as they master skills with confidence.

 

Where to start 

A simple place to start within the outdoor play space is the change or addition of individual pieces of equipment that are offered to children, reflecting on the observation assessment of how they are engaging with it. 

Swapping from the Heavy Duty Safety Toddler Swing to Tyre Basket Swing is guaranteed to evoke curiosity and immediate interest in children moving from one age group to another. 

 As children develop, there will be times when it is important to recognise the imminent transition for new experiences. The most significant indicator may often come with children finding new uses for old favourites, which educators may question regarding risk versus reward.

Much like the indoor environment, there should be a variety of outdoor spaces for interaction, including quiet and passive play. Gradually introducing items after ensuring a consistent level of skill and development amongst the children who will be engaging with them is a first step in the process.

At first, it can feel concerning to imagine giving children real tools like scissors, hammers, nails or garden tools. With safety top of mind, it can feel more comfortable to avoid risk altogether rather than face the potential of accidents and injuries.

 

Adding additional equipment 

One of life's greatest joys is being a short height off the ground and it should compel us to want to make this experience happen for children at play.  Providing quality products and resources and warm and meaningful interactions with children can enhance this time spent together

As their confidence increases with their desire to play cooperatively with others, swapping or adding from our range of horizontal tyre swings are guaranteed to generate fun and excitement with a challenge. Physical skills are tested, such as upper body strength and balance whilst climbing in or onto a moving swing!

Another significant opportunity for children to share their prior knowledge and experience while building upon their relationships is to offer the Heavy Duty Nest Swing. Children can choose to explore independently or with others in this swing designed to carry 3-4 safely. They can offer each other peer support to try new things as they explore together, sharing their learning and ideas.

 

Extending Existing Resources

Outdoor play spaces often include fixed climbing equipment such as a fort or climbing frame. These pieces can be extended to reflect the changing physical and emotional needs of children seeking challenges.

Adding an obstacle course by securely fastening a  Play Cargo Net, Caterpillar Crawl  or Log Bridge to an A Frame Trestle will test their skill in hand-eye coordination, hand and foot placement, as well as their upper body strength. 

Though these items may not automatically be categorised as risky play equipment, they mimic the kind of play children might be exposed to as if they were climbing trees in a backyard or exploring a park.

The beauty of the design of this equipment is the range considers the steps between all stages of development, from toddlers to older children. Each step they master makes recognising when to introduce a change or modification to the play space easier. 

 

For more inspiration on adding adventure and increasing engagement during Outdoor Play please visit Bellbird's Educator Resource Centre.

 

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