What are junk and adventure playgrounds?
Adventure playgrounds are in bold contrast to the modern playgrounds you’ll see around Ireland today which are planned and built according to minimum safety standards. Images of adventure playgrounds show ram shackled dens, old tyres and pipes upon a barren waste ground. They are certainly set apart from traditional playgrounds with tall swings, merry-go-rounds and slides, and neither built on asphalt nor rubberized tiles. The playgrounds are built on the bare earth which lies beneath them. The children direct their own play and games. They play with loose materials and old equipment rather than fixed apparatus. They climb trees, build their own constructions with hammers, nails and saws, and build wooden bridges over streams.
The importance of play and risk
The idea behind this environment is that children will become empowered by learning how to take calculated risks. They are challenged and test their physical limits. By helping them to overcome fears, (such as heights) by walking over a bridge they have built, they will become better equipped to tackle other obstacles within their lives. Their imaginations are given free reign as the materials they use are not for a specific purpose, and their activities and games are not structured or pre-determined by adults, however a small number of adults are usually at hand for low-key supervision. When children are given the opportunity to assess risk by themselves, they learn to appreciate the consequences of risk-taking and develop a sense of responsibility. If they don’t have access to play where there is an acceptable level of risk, there is a fear that they will actively search for a more dangerous area to play. Many psychologists and childcare professionals can identify the benefits associated with taking acceptable risks and deem it essential for their healthy psychological development. It is feared if they overprotected and not given the opportunity to explore safe and acceptable forms of risk, they may turn to more reckless behaviour.