by Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, Affil. ASLA
Notes from the Inaugural Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) Book Group Meeting
Written by Lolly Tai, PhD, RLA, FASLA, with a foreword by Teri Hendy, CPSI, Letting Play Bloom: Designing Nature-Based Risky Play for Children is magnificent. Published in 2022 by Temple University Press, it is an elegant, rich, and beautiful accounting of the need for children to experience risk in play, because as Dr. Tai eloquently states, “Children love to play in risky ways, it’s how children learn [about themselves and others and the world around them]” (p. 3). She makes clear that risky play is not a synonym for unsafe play; rather she cites Joe Frost’s idea of risky play as being “exciting, thrilling, and challenging while at the same time keeping risk to a minimum.” Children will find their way to risky play, and as the projects in the book make clear, presenting opportunities for risky play makes children happy.
The book is organized around five projects that exemplify risky play: three from the US, one from the Netherlands, and one from Australia. Each project offers risky play opportunities for children, but in different ways. The first project is Slide Hill at the Hills, a project on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. The next is the iconic Adventure Playground in Berkeley, California. We move on the Rotterdam in the Netherlands to learn about De Speeldernis, return back to the US for WildWoods at the Fernbank Museum, and then to the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden in Sydney, Australia.