… Sandseter began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper called “Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Children, she concluded, have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play:
(1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.”
(2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master.
(3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby.
(4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation.
(5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast.
(6) Exploring on one’s own.
This last one Sandseter describes as “the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”
Daily Archives: March 22, 2014
Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences
I think the problem I have with playgrounds, especially #6 below (with the huge blue blocks) is that even the good ones (and these are rare!) are contrived and are not going to hold interest for long — like a museum. I guess I would have to see if any had much staying power vs the more real / organic / wild / natural versions of (#1) adventure playground and (#2) the campus of Sudbury Valley School (SVS) but I would guess not.
And not only because the blue blocks are less useful than real tools or artifacts the kids create from actual found objects (as at SVS), but also importantly, because (especially at Sudbury Valley School) the kids are in charge of their own time COMPLETELY. It isn’t just a 1/2 hour recess… it is their whole day that they are free to do as they wish — playing (or working… call it as you wish) outdoors or indoors.
And also importantly, at Sudbury Valley School (and other Sudbury Schools) it is within a context of a self-governed community — real direct democracy as embodied in the SVS Lawbook and executed by the Judicial Committee, the School Meeting, and the various elected clerkships and committees. Real consent of the governed is powerful.
Whereas, at a “playground” at some arbitrary short point, the whistle will blow, or the parents will say “times up” after an hour or 2.
Also, outside of school hours… playgrounds are typically hit or miss. Unless in a safe, dense area…. it is going to mean kids need to get their via parents/cars. Vs at SVS, there is a rich environment of “everyone is here” available. Cohousing neighborhoods offer that possibility as well, as long as people aren’t doing too much in the way of scheduled, adult run outside activities, pulling them away from the neighborhood.
1) Adventure Playgrounds
(as noted here: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/)
2) Sudbury Valley School
(as noted here with links to fort building and other outdoor play: https://ehaugsjaa.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/outdoors-at-school/)
3) Power tools for kids
4) Wilderness programs for kids
5) Fat Albert — cartoon at the junkyard
6) Imagination Playgrouds (sterile version of Adventure Playgrounds)
company that makes big blue blocks: http://www.imaginationplayground.com/
7) How Little League sports used to be (no parents… just kids)
Excerpt from Peter Gray