By Zan

I am really excited to be writing this blogpost. It is in celebration of a publication written by my friends and fellow playworkers Jill Wood and Morgan Leichter-Saxby. I am biased when I say that I am always proud of everything that Morgan does (she is my work-wife after all!) but seriously, this is really exciting data. I’m pleased that I get to tell the world about how awesome they are and how amazing it is!

Comparing Injury Rates on a Fixed Equipment Playground and an Adventure Playground

We’ve known Jill for a long time now. She was one of the people we visited on our USA tour in 2014. Jill started an adventure playground about 10 years ago and it is wonderful. I have only been to visit for a couple of days, but Morgan has actually worked there for a period of time. We both love this space: from the child-build structures to the Great Beyond, it is a place of true possibility and one that really prioritises children.

It was during one of Morgan’s visits to Adventure Play at Parish School that they got their heads together to produce this piece of research. With both a fixed playground and an adventure playground, the Parish school is uniquely placed for a comparitive study. This publication is the culmination of 5 years of data, carefully brought together by Jill and Morgan.

Here are some highlights from our press release:

“Programs like this offer children an invaluable chance to be free in an environment where they can do anything they can imagine” said Morgan Leichter-Saxby of Pop-Up Adventure Play, and co-author of the study.   “It’s so easy for adults to make play opportunities more restrictive, to create new rules instead of trusting children to learn how to manage their own risks incrementally.”  Nonetheless, staff at the Parish School are often asked whether if the adventure playground is as dangerous as it appears.  The same question is not asked of the school’s conventional fixed equipment playground used at recess.  Jill Wood, who founded Adventure Play at the Parish School in 2008, says that this offered a unique opportunity to compare the same children’s actual rates of injury at both sites over five years.”

“Adventure Play at Parish is one of the oldest sites of its kind in the USA, and highly respected in the field for its quality of provision.  This study defined ‘injury’ as anything requiring off-site medical attention, such as X-rays or stitches.  One hour’s play per child on the recess playground was found to carry a 0.00336% likelihood of injury.  At the adventure playground the risk was 0.00078%, meaning that a child was found to be 4.3 times safer there than on the conventional equipment site.  This is in spite of recess having a higher adult:child ratio than Adventure Play.  The authors emphasize that injury rates at both sites were comparable in safety to golf and ping-pong, and significantly safer than most adult-led sports.  Injuries also were found elsewhere in the school day, as children tripped and fell into the corners of desks, received a kickball to the face during PE class or trapped their fingers in the bathroom door.”

One of the biggest questions that we get asked at Pop-Up Adventure Play is whether adventure playgrounds are safe. Well, this small scale study says that it’s safer than you’d expect – check it out here and find out how safe!

Full Risk Study Press Release available here.

Adventure Play at the Parish School
Jill Wood:

Pop-Up Adventure Play
Morgan Leichter-Saxby:
Suzanna Law:

Psst… The eagle-eyed amongst you wonderful people will have also noticed a little announcement we tagged onto the end of our press release. If you want to find out more about that special 2019 gathering, send us a quick email.