Safe outdoor play for young children: Paradoxes and consequences

In this paper, we investigate some of the factors that may limit opportunities of children in Australia to engage in outdoor physical play. We examine the paradox that ‘surplus safety’ (i.e. excessive attempts at creating safe environments for children) in child care, school and urban environments, may expose children to significant chronic health risks. In making this case, we examine findings on physical activity levels in child care and restrictive regulatory environments. We also examine restrictions in school playgrounds that result, at least partly, from fears of litigation. Finally, we discuss the results of a pilot project in which loose parts were introduced into a school playground resulting in increased physical activity levels.

Key Phrase: Outdoor play, surplus safety, physical activity, sedentary behaviour.