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Adventurous Play Outdoors: Risk, challenge and the dangers of safety TEXT ONLY Helen Tovey TACTYC Conference November 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Adventurous Play Outdoors: Risk, challenge and the dangers of safety TEXT ONLY Helen Tovey TACTYC Conference November 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Adventurous Play Outdoors: Risk, challenge and the dangers of safety TEXT ONLY Helen Tovey TACTYC Conference November 2010

2 Characteristics of ‘risky’ adventurous play play involving height, motion and speed. inverting the normal order of things – tipping, hanging, spinning, rolling, joy in precariousness, unpredictability playing ‘on the edge’ of capability- testing skill, speed, endurance etc.

3 Characteristics of ‘risky’ adventurous play … deliberate thrill seeking seeking out scary situations whether imagined or real eg going in a dark place Simultaneous experience of joy & fear, in control and out of control, risk and mastery, play and reality

4 Possible theoretical frameworks Geertz – deep play Csikszentmihayli – flow Lyng - edgework Caillois -Ilynx or ‘dizzy play’

5 Ilynx or ‘dizzy’ play Ilynx – greek word for whirling water Characterised by ‘an attempt to destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind’ (Caillois 2001:123)

6 A risk averse society? Risk society - Beck Culture of fear -Furedi Perceived culture of blame and litigation Gill Increased emphasis on ‘keeping children safe’ -Moss & Petrie

7 But also - Rapid growth of Forest School movement Increase in ‘commercial adventure’

8 What is Risk? ‘Any behaviour in which there is uncertainty about the outcomes. It involves a consideration of the benefits against the possible undesirable consequences of the behaviour as well as the probability of success or failure’ Little (2006)

9 Risk is - problematic no longer about probability value laden and socially constructed frequently equated with ‘danger’ rarely balanced against benefits

10 What are the benefits of risk taking? Positive learning dispositions Part of tool kit of effective learners ( Claxton) A mastery approach – an ‘I can do it’ attitude Playing at the edge of capabilities – pushing out limits Emotional well being and resilience - ‘steeling’ experiences (Rutter) ‘training for the unexpected’ (Spinka, Newberry and Bekoff) Links between movement and thought (Athey, Greenland )

11 What is safe? Can children be too safe? Safe from.... or safe to … Safe as possible or safe as necessary ?

12 What are practitioners’ perspectives on risk and safety? part of wider research 20 practitioners ( 17 female 3 male ) in 4 early childhood settings – reception class, nursery school, children’s centre and private nursery one to one semi-structured interviews Photos used as prompts

13 Risk aversion That wouldn’t be allowed. … our children have to sit on the slide to go down… I think it’s a shame because it’s not very exciting for them Why wouldn’t it be allowed? It’s just always been like that – I suppose someone might hurt their hands. PN2 Image of child sliding headfirst down a slide

14 What if …. Where’s the rail? You have to have a rail. What if they fell back? PN 2 Oh! nothing to hold on to? That’s not safe. You can see those children look scared. PN 3 Image of children on top of a climbing frame with hands in the air

15 Risk anxiety “I would never let children out of my sight – just in case something happened.” PN2 “We kept the milk crates though they’re banned in other nurseries ….. but I’m always thinking what if … what would happen if a child hurt themselves and I would get the blame” NS2

16 Lack of autonomy We were told … to get rid of the slide ‘cos it was too high. Now we have a small plastic one which the children hardly use. It’s so boring but who am I to argue? We didn’t have a choice. RC3 The head told us to stand by the climbing frame all day but I don’t agree with it because there’s just as likely to be an accident on the brick wall ( of the sand pit) but I have to do it and I do get scared that someone will have an accident and the parents will sue” RC1

17 Subtle subversion Sometimes I do put the planks up high but I stand with them all the time and hope no one sees me. I just pray the Head doesn’t walk in. RC2 I have a very supportive head. She tells us to hide the milk crates and take away the high planks when the health and safety man comes. NS1

18 Precautionary approach Children must be safe… I tell my staff - if in doubt – don’t. I know it’s sad and the children miss out but we can’t take any risks with children’s safety. PN 2

19 Safe as possible We avoid anything that might be dangerous. Once a student put out tyres for rolling - but we said no – tyres are only for sitting in – it wasn’t safe. We make sure everything outside is… as safe as it possibly can be. CC 3

20 Can children be too safe? 8 practitioners argued that children ‘could never be too safe’ ‘ you can never be too careful’, keeping children safe is our main priority outside’. 12 out of 20 practitioners agreed that children could be ‘too safe’. ‘It’s not about mollycoddling. They need some freedom to play and do things for themselves. They learn from mistakes.’

21 Risk promotion That looks great ! We have those ladders and it’s a bit wobbly and scary but they love it…and sometimes they push back with their feet just to enjoy that scary moment when it’s nearly tipping over. It’s all learning about balance and stability. NS 1 Image of two children standing on ladders painting a wall with brushes and water

22 Celebrating risky play We have a big poster which says `Risky play is encouraged here’. We want children to feel safe to take risks - to be daring….. We tell them ( parents) we can’t guarantee accidents won’t happen. NS2

23 Key points Attempts to reduce risk paradoxically increased anxiety...and increased children’s attempts to take risks resulting in conflict. Shared approach and understanding of risk in play reduced practitioners’ anxiety and enhanced opportunities for risk taking

24 Implications for practice Need for a wider debate on the place of risk and challenge in play Develop confidence of staff teams to take risks themselves Shift policy emphasis from risk assessment to focus on risk/benefit & developing children’s resilience and the skills to be safe.

25 Implications... engage with the ‘edginess’ of play environments which are satisfyingly scary -flexible -varying terrains -resources which offer sensation of instability

26 Learn from the junk ‘do it yourself’ adventure playgrounds ? From Community Playthings - Simple Materials: Rich Experiences Image of two children using crates, pallets and planks to create a den, next to a patch of stinging nettles

27 Bring notion of the Forest to the Nursery ‘Garden’ Images of children on rough, uneven ground and playing in tall grass and bushes

28 Help children assess risk for themselves Example of children making a fallen tree safe for climbing on ( Claire Warden Early Education Autumn 2009)

29 ` `If you are going to keep children safe …you must provide places in which they can get the thrills they need; there must be trees they can climb and ways in which they can safely get the experience of adventure and the sense of challenge that they crave.’ Susan Isaacs 1936

30 The Danger of Safety The biggest risk is that there is no risk at all. Bundy et al (2009)

31 References Ball, D (2001) Playgrounds, Risks, Benefits and Choices Health and Safety Executive HMSO. Ball, D, Gill, T, Speigal, B ( 2008) Managing Risk in Play Provision. Implementation Guide london DCSF Beck, U ( 1993) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity London: Sage Publications Bundy, A; Luckett, T; Tranter, P; Naughton, A; Wyver, S; Razen, J; Spies, G (2009) The risk is that there is no risk: A simple, innovative intervention to increase children’s activity levels International Journal of Early Years Education Vol 17 (1) Caillois, R (2001) Man, Play and Games, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press. Csikszentmihayli, M (1979) in Sutton-Smith (ed) Play and learning New York Gardner Press Furedi, F ( 1997) Culture of Fear London: Continuum Gill, T (2007) No fear: rowing Up in a risk averse society London Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Isaacs, S lecture to National Safety Congress (1938) in National Froebel Foundation Bulletin no Jackson,S & Scott, S (1999) Risk Anxiety and the Social Construction of Childhood in Lupton, D (1999) Risk and Sociocultural theory: New Directions and Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Little, H (2006) Children’s Risk Taking behaviour: implications for early childhood policy and practice International Journal of Early Years Education Vol 14 no 2

32 Lyng, S (2005) Edgework:The Sociology of Risk taking Abingdon: Routledge Play safety Forum (2002) Managing Risk in Play Provision: A Position Statement. London, Children's Play Council. Spinka, M, Newberry, R and Bekoff, M (2001) Mammalian Play: Training for the Unexpected.The Quarterly Review of Biology Vol 76(2): Stephenson, A ( 2003) Physical risk taking: dangerous or endangered? Early Years Vol 23 no 1 Sandseter, E ( 2007) Categorising Risky Play. How can we identify risk taking in children’s Play? European Early Childhood Research pp Thom, B Sales, R, Pearce, J (2007) Growing Up with Risk Bristol: Policy Press Tovey, H (2007) Playing Outdoors, Spaces and Places, Risk and Challenge. Maidenhead: Open University Press Tovey, H ( 2010) Playing on the Edge: Perceptions of risk and danger in outdoor play in Broadhead, P et al Play and Learning in the Early Years ; London: Sage Waters, J & Begley, S (2007) Supporting the development of Risk-taking behaviours in the early years: an exploratory study Education 3-13 Vol 35, no 4


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