My friends will tell you that I’ve become rather tedious on the subject of playgrounds and how they’re used! Ever since reading Design for Play: A guide to designing successful play spaces (which you can find online and there’ll be a link on our website) I can’t help analysing how children and adults alike use outside space and equipment.
According to the report successful play spaces are custom-designed for the location, make use of natural elements, are accessible to both disabled and able-bodied children, allow different ages to play together, and provide opportunities to experience risk and challenge.
I’ve observed Secondary School students enjoying stick-sword fighting in a nearby copse and then chatting on (and pretending to fall off!) a brand new accessible roundabout – but ignoring the zip-wire, which is what I expected them to use. Similarly, some five-year-olds divided their time between climbing precariously on top of a high tunnel (designed to crawl safely through) and running up and down the grassy bank at the edge of the playground. Natural elements? Tick. Risk and challenge? Tick. Even on our half-term break in Keswick, (with its lovely new playground) my children dashed to the equipment, played on it for ten minutes and then developed an elaborate project of sand-moving for the next forty minutes. New equipment is always nice, but I’ve discovered it’s worth watching to see how it’s actually used and for how long. Perhaps we should create a meaningful list of experiences we’d like rather than simply a list of equipment.
Despite my enthusiasm for this topic however, I am a novice compared with the three designers we’ve asked to tender for this Great Shelford Playscape. Two of them have literally ‘written the book’ when it comes to best practice and all have worked on ground-breaking projects large and small. It’s going to be exciting to work with such creativity and experience whoever wins the tender.
The Playscape team will be at the Feast on Sunday 12th July – come and see what we’ve been up to, view the submissions from the designers, learn how you can donate and/or help with fundraising events, and tell us your views about the project, all at our stall there. We’re looking forward to seeing you!
Eleanor McCrone (firstname.lastname@example.org)
n.b. misprint last edition, should have been email@example.com not skte