Best practices in action

Foster Safety and Support

Spaces fully implementing this practice attend to physical safety, psychological safety, as well as supportive and protective practices for those using the space. This includes safety in fixed, movable, natural, and man-made features in addition to training and oversight for those in charge of managing the space and its users.


  • Include a safety plan for how staff can encourage, maintain, and support substantive, challenging, and safe play.
  • Clearly outline norms (including prohibited behaviors) for caring interactions among people in the space and with the space components.
  • Create and maintain a service and upkeep guide, including who is responsible, onsite supplies and resources, anticipated costs, and preferred service vendors for all space features (water fountains, bathrooms, etc.).
  • Support linkage to public transportation, including an on-site, clean, covered, and well-lit waiting area.
  • Have a formalized crisis plan regarding emergencies that could arise in a space.
  • Include policies for responsibility and liability including staff/volunteer behavior with children, weapons, regulatory compliance (i.e., OSHA), child abuse prevention and reporting, unaccompanied adult users, etc.
  • Plan for identifying children’s behavioral concerns/needs and appropriate intervention.
  • Entrance areas are welcoming, inviting, and appealing to both children and adults, and clearly define the boundaries of the space.
  • Support and encourage linkage with or creation of groups such as “neighborhood watch” to support safe use of space.
  • Use community leaders to protect space (e.g., partner with police to reinforce safety messages).
  • Staff and volunteers undergo background checks.


  • Use “observation teams” that enter the space at designated times to observe families in use of the space and make recommendations for improvements related to safe use of space features.
  • Space design and activities create purposeful structures, routines, and processes that help children manage their emotions to feel safe and secure.
  • Staff members use supporting and encouraging verbal and non-verbal language to help users feel safe when engaging in play and to feel comfortable taking appropriate risks.
  • Organization provides periodic open houses or "try it" demonstration sessions within the space.

Physical Characteristics

  • Surfacing materials are safe and accessible (e.g., poured rubber, rubber tile, engineered carpet, etc.).
  • Foot paths are lighted, clear, and free of obstruction.
  • Bike paths are curved, level, and have appropriate lighting.
  • Bathrooms and water fountains are easily seen and accessed.
  • Space provides storage areas (such as lockers) for families.
  • Space employs the use of soft furnishings and/or floor coverings in spaces frequented by very young children.
  • Map of the space is available with “routes” clearly outlined for optimal space use, traffic flow, and emergency exits.
  • Emergency contact locations are clearly marked and accessible or users receive clear direction for accessing emergency services using staff cell phones.
  • Safety equipment and supplies (first aid kits, etc.) are readily available and staff/volunteers are trained in their use.
  • Space includes quiet "calming" areas to assist in behavior management.
  • Space is designed to avoid blind spots and provide clear lines of sight for caregivers within the space to observe multiple children simultaneously.


  • Staff are educated about function and optimization of space characteristics (physical elements) with respect to supervision, engagement, and safety.
  • Staff/volunteers are “mentors” within a space to demonstrate how to maximize supportive features that promote exploration of the space in an appropriate and safe fashion.
  • Staff are trained and supported to effectively and confidently manage behavior including conflict between and among parents/guardians and children.
  • Training of key staff in trauma-informed care and services is supported.