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Designing playgrounds that balance challenge and safety

Updated: 4 days ago

Imagine a playground stripped of adventurous elements – devoid of climbers meant to improve agility and strength, or motion elements such as spinners that spark a sense of speed. While seemingly safe, such a playground may inadvertently rob children of the invaluable developmental benefits of playgrounds.


The objective of a playground


461C Sengkang West Playground with a customised tree top roof that is green, with a variety of equipment such as a green double slide, a variety of climbers and a green spiral spinner.

Playgrounds initially attract children through designs that incorporate a sense of perceived danger, inviting them to tackle the challenge it poses. Challenging features on equipment captivate young minds, sparking curiosity and promoting creativity in play. A well-thought-out playground balances safety and thrill, providing children with opportunities to enhance their cognitive, emotional, physical, and social skills. Without these challenging elements, the playground risks becoming a mundane space, failing to inspire imagination and curiosity, which are vital for development.


Those prioritising children's safety may be apprehensive about playground equipment that may appear dangerous. While injury prevention is undeniably paramount, research by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that an overemphasis on eliminating all risks may hinder a child's overall development. Providing children with environments that are too safe and devoid of challenges is counterproductive and constrains their ability to develop crucial skills such as problem-solving, resilience, and risk assessment. The key is to include age-appropriate challenges, allowing children to explore and conquer new feats while building resilience and self-confidence.


The point of finding safety is not to avoid risk entirely — which is impossible — but to learn to distinguish between good risk and bad risk; to understand the balance involved. - ABC Everyday

Furthermore, an excessively safe playground might inadvertently foster unexpected risky behaviour. This could involve children attempting activities like climbing, hanging, or sliding on equipment not intended for such use. A thrill-seeking child will inevitably seek excitement, potentially putting themselves at risk as non-challenging equipment may lack necessary safety features.


What we can do as playground designers


So how can we strike a balance? Being a playground planner entails crafting environments that foster a sense of adventure by seeking playground equipment designed intentionally to cultivate a challenging experience while controlling risks and keeping children safe.


212C Bidadari park playground with a young boy climbing a wood plank wiggle climber, and playground walls that look like boulders. A large net climber is at the background with a boy and a girl climbing at the top.

For instance, the inclusion of net-based climbers, realistic boulder-climbing walls, and zip line-type play components from Landscape Structures (LSI) provides children with an opportunity to engage in both physical and cognitive challenges. This design offers an experience distinct from traditional play structures, where children need to navigate robust playground nets, scale rocky walls, and race down a securely positioned zip line. 


Equipment from Landscape Structures uses materials engineered to have safety and durability in mind. LSI makes sure that their equipment adheres to the highest-quality safety standards. Therefore, incorporating such designs can offer suitable challenges and satisfy kids while ensuring the removal of potential hazards.


Let us help you design a playground that challenges and inspires! Send us a message by filling out this contact form, or email us at retromax@retromax.asia.


To read more about this topic, you can download the Whitepaper provided by Landscape Structure on Balancing Safety and Challenges in Playground Design. 



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