No-rules play lowers injuries, bullying

A New Zealand school that got rid of playground rules saw a “drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing,” reports TVNZ. 

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

 “We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over,” says Principal Bruce McLachlan.

Swanson School worked with university researchers on encouraging active play, then decided to throw out the rule book. When the study ended, “researchers were amazed by the results,” reports TVNZ.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds. “The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.” Children learn about consequences by taking risks, he said.

The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

“There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring.”

Via Instapundit.

Here are some wild-and-crazy playground designs from a Danish firm.

New Ridiculously Imaginative Playgrounds from Monstrum Set the Monkey Bars High for Innovation playgrounds kids

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  1. greeneyeshade says:

    I’ve had a soft spot for the Kiwis since my wife and I honeymooned there. Another bravo.

  2. This kind of reminds me of dogs. Anyone who has owned a dog, particularly a young dog, knows the aphorism, “A tired dog is a good dog”. You get the dog out to the park, let it run and run, and it will be a good, quiet dog for the rest of the day.

    Looks like they’re saying that something similar applies to kids. Who knew?

    • I had the kind of kids who starting running 10ks every weekend, at the age of 7, in addition to travel sports and plenty of time running around the neighborhood. Fortunately, opening the door to the playground and sending antsy kids who had finished their work outside to run a few laps (unsupervised! oh, the horror!) was a regular practice at their schools.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    You’re probably thinking of Drachten, in the Netherlands. Various versions of “no rules” (actually few rules) have been tried in various places and the results have generally been successful.

    A recent article with links is at