Category Children’s Spaces

Current legal requirements

The whole of the protection currently afforded to playground users in relation to civil and criminal law derives from that same legislation and relevant case law which protects us in every other aspect of our working, leisure and community lives. There is no specific ‘Playground Safety Act’ and this is interesting because, in contrast to the play and recreation lobby, there is no evidence of employers or the trades unions urging the benefits to be derived from knowingly entering or utilizing premises or apparatus with recognizable risk potential.

Following a landmark legal judgment, all British Standards now include a statement to the effect that compliance with a British Standard does not of itself confer immunity from legal obligations...


Playground safety in perspective

Setting aside the common experience of trivial injury associated with scrapes, cuts and bruises which are an inescapable part of childhood, interest in safety in playgrounds has not figured largely in expressions of community concern until quite recent times. The systematic collection and analysis of playground accidents and injuries is a comparatively recent phenomenon which is ascribable to both the comparative rarity of the
events and what might be seen as a predictably defensive posture adopted by the providers of play services and equipment.

Around thirty years ago Illingworth et al.12 collected statistics over an eighteen-month period relating to 200 playground accidents requiring hospital treatment in a Sheffield hospital...


The current agenda

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the present surge of interest in play and playgrounds is why this should have become an issue. Within months, two different government departments have produced closely focused reports, each related to the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), Barnardos have funded a three-year ‘Better Play’ programme, the National Playing Fields Association (NPFA) has issued a new report and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is developing an initiative.7

A number of simple answers are suggested. The Government, in the run-up to the 2001 election, pledged £200000 000 for improving children’s play opportunities and is now soliciting advice and applications for funding to enable the money to be spent wisely...


Child development and the importance of outdoor play

Children develop socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally in every aspect of their lives. It is axiomatic for early years practitioners and other professionals that play is a powerful medium for developing and expressing self-awareness, social learning, imagination, awareness of the world and physical skills. Play is, as Janet Moyles expresses it, a natural tool for learning, fun and a powerful motivator.4 For Moyles, the key element in play is children’s ownership of their actions and, indeed, independent activity is, to some degree, central to most definitions of play. Other important and frequently cited features of ‘real’ play include enjoyment, spontaneity, involvement, persistence and concentration...


Playgrounds in Britain – a brief history

Towards the end of the nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century five successive and distinct phases or fashions in playground design can be recognized within the UK:

constructed boat-shaped swings, ‘Witches Hat’ roundabouts and crash stop plank see-saws, all within a tasteful assemblage of formal flowerbeds, fountains, muzzle-loading cannon on plinths by the bandstand, surrounded by wrought iron gates and railings.

2 Social and Natural. The period 1920-49 saw, largely in southern England and the Home Counties, a brief burgeoning of aspirational sports investment, with tennis courts, pools, lidos and bowling greens...


Razor blades and teddy bears – the health and safety protocol

Judith and John Hicks

Editor’s introduction

For many working fathers living in urban areas, large parts of the weekend are spent standing in the municipal children’s playground watching over their young children. These places provide a physical and social outlet for their children, an escape. This is especially important when they are living in confined home environments, such as a flat which has no outside play area for children to let off steam.

This was certainly my experience as the father of young boys. How many hours it seemed I spent following my kids around the local playground. For all but the most nervous, the child’s natural inclination will be to go for the most challenging, even dangerous, piece of play equipment...


Public perceptions of children: interviews with adults

The relative paucity of children’s experiences in the UK, and the limitations they experience, suggest that, by default rather than by intention, we are hostile to children. This attitude is compounded by beliefs that children are a nuisance, an encumbrance, and above all the personal property and private responsibility of their parents. This sombre perception was confirmed by the newspaper cuttings described above. For this chapter, we also undertook a small pilot study.35 We carried out semi-structured interviews with over 100 adults, parents and non-parents from a variety of ethnic and class backgrounds...


Children in the UK and elsewhere

The trends that isolate children, re-create them as vulnerable, accident prone and in need of protection, and simultaneously exploit their market potential, are widespread, an inevitable off-shoot of contemporary consumerist societies. But these
trends can nevertheless be questioned and challenged. Certain countries have always been more pro-natalist and more proactive in favour of children. One key indicator of societal attitudes towards children is toleration of child poverty...


Childlore and childplay

The distinguished environmentalist Roger Hart summed up the changing nature of children’s lives in the cities of the industrialized world like this:

their diminished freedom in space and time, the growth of mass media as an acculturating force at the expense of peer culture and local culture, a reduced contact with the natural world, the private and more exclusive provision of spaces for play and recreation at the expense of more inclusive public space, an erosion of community in the geographic sense of the word, an increase in social class segregation, the loss of meaningful work opportunities and a growth of violence.23

If this seems a bleak picture, there are also contra­indications that children continue to create and pursue their own interests and identities independently from those...


Consuming children

On the one hand, children are perceived to be in a state of continuous exposure to unacceptable risk, to themselves and to and from others. On the other hand, we express serious concern that they will become couch potatoes, overweight, under­exercised and solitary. Children now consume passively through TV, video and computer games, the thrills, dangers and subversion that John Muir created for himself first hand.

(Children’s cartoons and commercials) portray an abundance of the things most prized by children – food and toys; their musical themes and fast action are breathtakingly energetic, they enact a rebellion against adult restriction; they present a version of the world in which good and evil, male and female, are unmistakably coded in ways easily comprehended by a young child; they...