Are our efforts to make playgrounds as safe as possible actually making children’s worlds more dangerous? The design of modern playgrounds purposefully removes risk from play, but in doing so, they may be limiting the development of some really important pieces of children’s personalities. However! There’s a wave of a different sort of playground slowly gaining popularity around the world. It’s full of hammers, nails, and building scraps and is — surprisingly — making playgrounds safer!

We’d like to introduce you to a little something called an adventure playground. These swaths of land, full of building scraps and tools, encourage the sort of natural play kids gravitate towards.

Now, understandably, the idea of letting your children run free with a hammer is, at the very least, worrisome. But just see how you feel about this idea by the end of this article.

Image: entrance to the Berkeley, California Adventure Playground!

Entrance to Adventure Playground in Berkeley, California
Source: Rhododendrites // Wikipedia

So, what exactly is an adventure playground? And how can something based around risky play actually be safe?

As someone who repeatedly made risky decisions on a “safe” swingset, the idea of the adventure playgrounds makes a lot of sense. The basic idea is to allow children to engage in a controlled risk environment. These spaces invite them to explore their creativity, collaborate, problem-solve, and discover the world for themselves. And it does wonders for their confidence! Not to mention, their sense of responsibility for their own safety and that of others around them.

With our plush, bouncy, modern playgrounds designed to keep them safe, are we actually pointing children towards different dangers? If these developing brains aren’t given opportunities to assess risk for themselves as children… how well do we expect them to fare as adults?

The awesome channel, Vox, looked into what the deal with these playgrounds is. Who came up with this idea? How do they even work? And how in the world could playgrounds designed for safety be more dangerous?

Let’s dive into this child-built world to see what’s going on.

Via: Vox 1

“The idea behind all of these design elements is that kids respond well to being treated seriously. If they’re presented with risky items with a serious purpose, they’ll respond consciously and conduct more experimentation.”

Check out how one adventure playground in Huntington Beach, California runs by clicking here!

See more great content from Vox by heading over to their channel and by following along on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram! And explore the rest of their great series, By Design, by clicking here!

Handing children their ticket to explore the world.

Children explore the limits of their worlds. It’s only natural — they’re new to the world and checking everything out. So if our children are going to engage in risky behavior anyway… why not teach them how to do so safely?

Every one of us has to take risks, and knowing how to do safely, collaboratively, and creatively adds a whole mess of tools to our box. In other words, life outside of these structured childhoods isn’t cautiously padded for safety. And growing up believing that it is may end up causing more harm than anything.

This idea of risky play is also at work in kindergartens around the globe!

Jump into this article from our library to see how forest kindergartens benefit children’s development.

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Forest Kindergarten: Challenging All Our Instincts!

When was the last time you saw pre-schoolers gleefully playing in a muddy ditch or climbing in a tall tree? Turns out that encouraging that sort of thing might be a giant leap forward in education! Take a look...

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And if you’d like to learn a bit more about how play impacts our lives, give this episode of TED Radio Hour a listen!

How has play impacted your life? Were full plastic play spaces a part of your childhood? Or did you dabble a bit in with rocks, sticks, and nails?

What has made us so worried about children acting like children?

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein 

How do you feel about adventure playgrounds?

Share your thoughts with us by tagging Ever Widening Circles in your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! #itsstillanamazingworld


  1. Vox. “Why Safe Playgrounds Aren’t Great for Kids.” YouTube, Vox, 20 Feb. 2019, Accessed 24 June 2019.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.