Designing Nature-Based Risky Play for ChildrenLolly Tai
With a foreword by Teri Hendy
Children love to play in risky—often misunderstood to mean unsafe—ways. It is often how they learn. Research shows that activities like climbing on trees and boulders, hiking in nature, and playing in a creek are excellent ways for kids to develop their creativity and their senses, because playing outdoors evokes different sights, sounds, smells, and textures.
Letting Play Bloom analyzes five outstanding case studies of children’s nature-based risky play spaces—the Slide Hill at Governors Island in New York, the Berkeley (CA) Adventure Playground, and Wildwoods at Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, as well as sites in the Netherlands and Australia. Author Lolly Tai provides detailed explanations of their background and design, and what visitors can experience at each site.
She also outlines the six categories of risky—not hazardous—play, which involve great heights, rapid speeds, dangerous tools, dangerous elements, rough-and-tumble play, and wandering or getting lost. These activities allow children to explore and challenge themselves (testing their limits) to foster greater self-worth while also learning valuable risk-management skills such as dealing with fear-inducing situations.
Filled with more than 200 photographs, Letting Play Bloom advocates for a thoughtful landscape design process that incorporates the specific considerations children need to fully experience the thrill that comes from playing in nature.
“Lolly Tai’s beautiful book reminds me how fortunate I was growing up building forts and tree houses in the nearby woods, engaging in ‘risky play.’ In this increasingly urbanized world, more and more children have limited opportunities to play in the wild. Letting Play Bloom inspires us by thoroughly documenting the creation of five exemplary playgrounds. These play spaces provide examples of how we can create challenging environments that will foster children’s development through the transformative aspects of nature.”
—Andrea Cochran, Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects
“For far too long we have been constrained by regulations that inhibit creative design, resulting in too many places that inhibit creative play. Letting Play Bloom is beautiful, thoughtful, and delightful to read—and combined with all the recent technical and cultural advances in the practice of landscape architecture, it should lead us into a new era where we are designing places for children that exceed our wildest dreams. Letting Play Bloom is the book I’ve long been waiting for.”
—W. Gary Smith, Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and author of From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design
"Letting Play Bloom artfully presents issues in balancing creative—some say risky—free play with imagination and safety. It importantly differentiates risky from unsafe play and offers examples from around the world. Five extensive case studies, illustrated with analysis, plans, and beautiful images, explore the process of designing successful nature-based risky play areas. From the creative materials of Adventure Playground to the nature-based de Speeldernis and designed landscape of Slide Hill, readers will learn from exemplary (and fun!) projects."
—Mark A. Focht, Past-President of the American Society of Landscape Architects
“Lolly Tai’s Letting Play Bloom pulls back the curtain on designing for risky play—and moves the conversation from why to how. The five unique case studies provide a sampling of blueprints that will empower anyone who designs public spaces to enhance the relevance of their work for children and families. I highly recommend this book.”—Erin Marteal, Executive Director of the Ithaca Children’s Garden