Playground happier without rigid rules

Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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Banishing playground rules is having incredible effects on children at Swanson Primary School.

The school is seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, and a boost in classroom concentration levels.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a two-year AUT and Otago university experiment encouraging active play.

"We want kids to be safe and to look after them but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over."

Letting children ride scooters during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car later on, he says.

The results have amazed researchers.

Mudslides, bullrush and tree climbing kept children so occupied the school no longer needed a time out area or as many teachers on patrol.

"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged," Mr McLachlan says.

"In my experience children get into trouble when they are not busy. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield says modern playgrounds are rule-heavy and excessively protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking.

Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences.

"The great paradox of putting children in cotton wool is it's more dangerous in the long run," Mr Schofield says.

Fairfax News

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