School playgrounds are a part of a child’s daily life, but are they holding back their development?
In the United Kingdom, educators believe playgrounds are too safe for children and are even bringing a bit of danger to play structures — even if it results kids getting hurt.
A Toronto-based psychologist, Dr. Oren Amitay says it’s a change that needs to happen.
“What we’ve been doing the last number of years is going against what we should be doing which is teaching children how to be resilient, to have a sense of self-efficacy, to be able to pick themselves up after they fall down,” he says.
“I know it’s a cliche but they’re not teaching these children the resilience they need and we see this when they get older whether it’s climbing the jungle gym or asking for a pay increase.”
Dr. Amitay adds the negative effects of never taking risks will have an impact on children as they become adults as well.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of anxiety. They don’t think they have the wherewithal or the means of changing things in their life. It permeates to all areas of life.”
A national charity that has a mandate of injury prevention and safety, Parachute, says even they agree that it is important for kids to face risk.
Parachute spokesperson Pamela Fuselli says it is important not to bubble-wrap kids.
“We are totally in line with the idea of introducing more risks,” she says. “The important thing to understand is the difference between a risk and a hazard. A risk promotes learning development, it doesn’t put the child in imminent danger. A hazard is when a pieces of the playground is broken or there is needles or glass, we don’t need hazards for development but we do need to challenge kids.”
The TDSB says it has been taking steps towards adopting this idea as well.
A couple of years ago, the school board partnered with Earth Day Canada to support their Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) program.
It brings school administrators, teachers, lunch supervisors, parents and support staff to develop school practices to enrich outdoor play during recess, lunch hour and after school.
In an email to CityNews, the TDSB says, “research shows that self-directed play supports the development of children’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive skills, and contributes to safe and healthy schools and child well-being.”
The program was originally piloted in six schools in the 2016/17 school year and ten more schools were added this year.
Earth Day Canada is planning on expanding the program to over 36 TDSB schools by 2020.