There is increasing press coverage of the benefits of risk in play. Last week there was an article in the Wall Street Journal. When we give our children opportunities to play outdoors, freely interacting with nature and the environment around them they develop an awareness of and a very healthy connection to that environment. Where and how we play as children shapes who we are as adults.
As our cities aim to intensify their urban form it is ever more important to remember to provide for the children who live in our communities. Many children in New Zealand and Australia are growing up in apartments designed for 'singles' or 'couples', not families. Children are mandated for in some countries as requiring 15sqm of outdoor play space, per child. There is no such requirement in Australasia, yet.
When we look at the numbers of children and their needs for risky, natural play we need to look closely at the availablity of urban open space. We need to look at how many urban forests or groves of trees and grassy or limed patches are there within our cities, within a 5 minute walk from home?
Providing abundant 'safe as necessary' play opportunities requires developers, city planners and designers to acknowledge the mental health impacts, the public health impacts of children's sensory development and their need for natural play.