The benefits of risk in the playground

For children to learn, it is essential that they take some risks and this is something pupils at Happy Days nursery, Eskbank are now able to do thanks to the new Halvorsen Architects-designed play area at the site. The playground was completed in June and the children are clambering excitedly all over the trees and ropes, negotiating the various obstacles with great dexterity.

Research and common sense show that children need to take some risks in order to develop cognitive, social and physical competencies. Imposing too many restrictions on outdoor play hinders their development. They need to be given the mental and physical space to figure out appropriate risk levels for themselves.

The natural forms of the trees at the Esbank play area encourage more imaginative play than more prescriptive structures. Bark left on the tree trunks; recycled anti-slip rubber tread inserts; and hemp rope all contribute to the range of tactile experiences with which the children can explore different materials.

Challenging the children in this way gives them more self-confidence in the outside world and teaches them skills such as balance and judgement.