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Canadian Public Health Association


Increasing Opportunities for Risky Play: A Risk Mitigation Policy Toolkit

Canadians are increasingly concerned about managing the risks their children assume, and often limit their access to the benefits of risky, self-directed play. Risky play provides children the opportunity to explore their personal limits, and learn to manage risk and work with other people. Meanwhile the concerns of city and school board officials are focused on increased insurance liability costs and the likelihood of tort law suits that might result from accidents in play areas and school grounds. This short-term approach plays against the longer term benefits of providing children the opportunity to play in areas that manage risk to the degree necessary.

The requirement for safety needs to be balanced against the benefits of risky play. This project investigates the causes of risk aversion from a social and liability perspective, and develops policy options to address those concerns that are applicable to large and small urban communities, as well as rural areas. The target audience is elected officials and senior managers in municipalities and local school boards who make decisions that affect the opportunities for children and youth to experience risk and adventure.

A risk mitigation policy toolkit will be developed in collaboration with a range of partners and stakeholders to support public policy that could guide access to and the development of risky play opportunities and adventure play areas on municipal lands and school yards. The process and product will also respond to parental perceptions concerning free play in these settings. The toolkit will be tested with interested organizations including public health practitioners. The resulting toolkit will provide direction for communities across Canada that should increase their children’s access to risky play and its benefits.

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