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Let children learn through risky play, RoSPA conference will hear


Safety experts, park managers and playground operators will gather in Birmingham this week to discuss the benefits of “risky play” and to learn how six of the country’s best play sites offer great play value to children.
The RoSPA Play Safety Conference comes after The Guardian reported earlier this year that children were playing outside for an average of just over four hours a week – half that of their parents’ generation.
The importance of children playing in natural settings and having opportunities to learn to manage risk will be a theme running throughout the day.
Among those speaking at the conference is Tim Gill, an independent researcher who manages the Rethinking Childhood website, who will consider “how we can all learn to stop worrying and love risky play”. He will define “risky play”, demonstrate why it is important and how we can manage the associated risks properly.
Joe Cooper, from natural playground company Touch Wood Enterprises, will address delegates on the concept of natural play, believing that children have an innate biological drive to play which naturally propels them to interact with the physical world around them. He will explain how natural settings and materials provide opportunities for children’s play that both enhance wellbeing in the here and now, and form positive memories that can last a lifetime.
Harry Harbottle, of CATE Consulting, will talk about natural play in the context of environmental considerations and the benefits of allowing children to manage risk and uncertainty through connecting with the elements.
Six playgrounds and play sites that RoSPA Play Safety inspectors have deemed to offer excellent play value to children will be showcased, and delegates will have a chance to choose their favourite. The six sites are: Diana Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens, London; Heaton Park, Manchester; Sacrewell Farm, Peterborough; The Children’s Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Town Park, Telford; and William’s Den, North Cave.
David Yearley, head of play safety at RoSPA, who also be speaking at the conference, said: “While play and healthy outdoor activity should be encouraged, we should also be mindful of the risks involved. Research indicates that each year in the UK there are roughly 40,000 injuries to children on playgrounds that result in a hospital visit.
“RoSPA’s long-held view is that playgrounds and play sites should be a safe as necessary, not as safe as possible. This allows room for children to engage in risky play, giving them the opportunity to extend their limits and learn life skills. Success and failure provide children with the motivation to try again and work out different ways of doing things which is vital for their development.
“The focus of our conference will be how those with responsibility for playgrounds and play sites can suitably manage environments so that they are stimulating without posing an unacceptable risk of serious injuries.”
The conference, which takes place on Thursday (December 5) at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole at the NEC, is fully booked and will be attended by professionals from the across the UK.

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