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Playing and learning

This week I had the pleasure of attending the House of Commons to speak at the launch of the Play Safety Forum's revised guidance on Managing Risk in Play Provision.

It was good to chat with a number of dedicated people who are passionate about seeing children learn important lessons about life from outdoor play.

HSE was happy to support the production of the guidance and drafted a joint high level statement with Play Safety Forum, which is included in the publication.

While sharing with the audience some of my own childhood experiences of learning lessons from play, I recognised that I am from a generation for whom outdoor play was absolutely normal - it was just what children did.

In today's risk averse world where children are likely to be found at home in front of X-Boxes and You Tube, it's not so easy, so we need to encourage and support those who are prepared to give their time to helping kids experience the outdoors, having fun and learning at the same time.

I was heartened to hear at the launch event about a head teacher who, on discovering that none of his pupils knew how to play conkers, organised a conker playing session for the whole school. Well done, Mr/Ms Headteacher whoever and wherever you are. Admittedly I was disappointed to learn you also had to write to all of the parents to seek their permission before the event went ahead though - a sad reflection on the fear of litigation which continues to get in so many people's way.

I was also fascinated to hear about a documentary film called 'Project Wild Thing' which I will certainly seek out and watch. The filmmaker, David Bond, concerned about the amount of time his children spend inside, determines to give them an outdoor experience - and film it. He has recently been engaged in publicising the film through the media.

At the launch we heard that a national tabloid with a strong reputation for criticising the "elf n safety" brigade was provided with the press information for Project Wild Thing, including a photograph of the filmmaker and his kids up in a tree. The photograph didn't appear because the paper was concerned that its publication would be seen to be encouraging kids to climb trees! How's that for double standards?

Children by nature are curious beings and it is important we are seen to be supporting and nurturing this natural instinct by enabling, not preventing them from exploring the outside world. Hopefully play Safety Forum along with parents and guardians can play a part in this process and not be put off by a fear of fun.