Risk, challenge and safety: Implications for play quality and playground design

Helen Little*, David Eager

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    74 Citations (Scopus)


    In many countries playground design is driven more by safety than developmental benefits. As risk minimisation strategies become more stringent, many researchers and practitioners are questioning whether young children are able to take sufficient risks in play in order for their play experiences to be interesting and developmentally challenging. This study examined the outdoor play choices and risk-taking behaviour of 38 children (25 boys, 13 girls) aged between 48 and 64 months from Sydney, Australia. Semi-structured interviews examined children's play preferences and playground equipment usage. Observations of play explored engagement in risk-taking behaviour. Selection of equipment indicated a strong preference for challenge and excitement. However, the dominant observed play behaviours involved little risk suggesting equipment at these parks provided few opportunities to practice mastery of skills already in their behavioural repertoire, learning new skills or building on current capabilities. The findings have implications for play provision and playground design.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)497-513
    Number of pages17
    JournalEuropean Early Childhood Education Research Journal
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


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