Avoiding a dystopian future for children’s play


Children’s play is increasingly controlled, costly and standardised. Risk aversion has resulted in attempts to eliminate all danger despite the limited health burden of play-related injuries and missing cost–benefit evidence. The current role and implementation of playground safety standards is a key inhibitor of stimulating play provision. Playground safety standards assume that play is about engineered structures. Standard creating bodies and playground inspectors tend to be missing key voices and knowledge. The proper domain of playground standards is engineering-related issues, such as structural integrity. However, they make judgments about children’s play behaviours, which are shaped by the children using the space and local circumstances: they are not standardised and should lay outside the scope of standards. We recommend that the value-based judgments currently included in standards and inspections should rest with play providers using Risk Benefit Assessment frameworks. We provide recommendations for play providers, standard setters, inspectors and public health.

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Suggested Citation: David J. Ball, Mariana Brussoni, Tim R. Gill, Harry Harbottle & Bernard Spiegal (2019) Avoiding a dystopian future for children’s play, International Journal of Play, 8:1, 3-10, DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2019.1582844

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