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Can playgrounds, in their attempts to be safe, actually be dangerous?

Here’s what Helle Nebelong, a Danish landscape architect who focuses on healthy, natural, inspiring play spaces for children, has to say on the matter. The following is an extract from a speech she gave to the Free Play Network.
“The pre-fabricated playground tries to live 100% up to safety standards. These standards developed, based on horror stories of real, tragic accidents. Although these are guidelines and as such are useful, when combined with common sense, they have, in my opinion, been allowed to go too far. The child’s real need for play and development is set aside with good intentions.

“I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: When the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet. Standardisation is dangerous because play becomes simplified and the child does not have to worry about his movements.

This lesson cannot be carried over to all the knobbly and asymmetrical forms, with which one is confronted throughout life. The ability to concentrate on f. ex. estimating distance, height and risk, requires a lot of practice and is necessary for a person to be able to cope successfully with life. The focus on safety is essential but must not lead one to forget to care about design and atmosphere and make one buy the boring play equipment because it is easy and secure.”

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