Taking a risk with playful places for children

removing 'surplus safety' from the school ground

P. J. Tranter, A. C. Bundy, L. Engelen, S. R. Wyver, G. A. Naughton, A. Niehues, J. Ragen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


In recent decades a critical tension has developed between two essential considerations for children’s health and well-being: physically active play and safety. ‘Risk anxiety’ or ‘surplus safety’ has placed these two goals in conflict. Risk anxiety has contributed to the reduction of exciting, challenging and stimulating outdoor play. Play spaces, including within school grounds, are now more commonly a reflection of what adults perceive as a safe environment than of the innate desires of children to have a stimulating and challenging play space. This paper sets the stage for and then describes a simple, low-cost intervention aimed at increasing active risk-taking play in school grounds. The intervention, known as the Sydney Playground Project (SPP), involved two components: altering adults’ perceptions of risk associated with active play through a risk reframing intervention; and introducing readily available loose materials to the school ground to capture children’s motivations for play. This intervention aimed to change the micro-geographies of the school ground in terms of the physical space and the socio-cultural environment (the climate of risk acceptance). The paper provides evidence from early analyses of the results which indicates that it is possible to change school ground spaces and other spaces children use for play, with minimal cost in ways that encourage active play.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntegrating Research and Practice Proceedings
Place of PublicationBendigo, VIC
PublisherLa Trobe University
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780987342935
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventChild Friendly Cities Conference - Bendigo, VIC
Duration: 1 May 20122 May 2012


ConferenceChild Friendly Cities Conference
CityBendigo, VIC


  • children
  • physical activity
  • risk
  • safety
  • school grounds
  • outdoor play
  • loose materials

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    Tranter, P. J., Bundy, A. C., Engelen, L., Wyver, S. R., Naughton, G. A., Niehues, A., & Ragen, J. (2012). Taking a risk with playful places for children: removing 'surplus safety' from the school ground. In Integrating Research and Practice Proceedings (pp. 50-67). Bendigo, VIC: La Trobe University.