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