While it is important to develop play spaces in safe surroundings, this should not be interpreted as 'no risk'.
The Australian Standard on Playground Safety AS4685.1-6: 2014 encourages a balance between risk and safety, in order for playgrounds to provide the type of challenges on which children thrive. The authors of the standard suggest that playgrounds should encourage development of motor skills and present users with manageable challenges to develop physical skills and to find and test their limits. They note the primary aim of a playground should be to stimulate a child’s imagination, provide excitement and adventure in safe surroundings, and allow scope for children to develop their own ideas of play.
When designing a natural playspace, due consideration should be given to the existing environment, ease of supervision and developing a safe environment that provides healthy risk. Tracy Blaszkow from the Kidsafe WA Playground Advisory Service suggests the following safety-related factors be taken into account in the design of nature-based playgrounds:
- Ensure the fall height is less than 1.8m (early childhood) or 3.0m (all other settings).
- Ensure a minimum clearance of at least 2.5m around each item of equipment/natural play element.
- Ensure there is impact absorbing material under all items of equipment/natural play elements over 0.6m in height.
- Ensure the play area is free of head entrapment spaces.
- Ensure your design allows for supervision in early childhood and school settings.
- Ensure items such as boulders and logs don’t have sharp edges and are resting stable in the ground.