Monday, March 05, 2018

Parks and Playgrounds



An adventure playground in Germany

 You could say I have been studying parks and playgrounds from various perspectives since the age of five. Gone are the days of the rusty swing and a metal slide which stuck to your bottom on a frosty morning, scorched you on a hot day or landed you in a puddle of mud after rain. Not that the mud was all bad!

Recently completed zipline and slide at Geeveston are a far cry from those early playgrounds. There is also a very nice bicycle course with traffic lights and the ubiquitous skate park
 For the most part I am pleased to report that those days are well behind us and play equipment has become not only safer, but more varied and colourful. This is important at a time when space is at a premium and denser living has almost eliminated the expansive quarter acre backyard which was also a part of our childhood. Even as we urge children to get more exercise the opportunities for free play in the neighbouhood in nearby bushland and vacant lots continue to shrink.

Treehouse - Calvert Park Judbury and a nice little cubby behind it

Kid -sized tractor in the same park - very apt in a farming and forestry area
The playgrounds I like best are those with themes and or a couple of novel features especially after a period when almost every playground looked the same. I love the flying foxes and climbing nets and those which prompt children to think or use their imaginations a bit. Just a hint of turrets at a Darlington (WA) playground, inspired all manner of small knights and fair ladies. Boaty shapes bring forth pirates. One in Ashgrove, (QLD) had the outlines of a little shop, complete with scales.  Another one I particularly liked was at a Garden Show in Freiburg, Germany. It was a vertical structure for water play with pumps, channels and pipes at the top and a sandpit at the bottom.  Since each activity took place at varying levels which could only be accessed by children of a certain height, many different age groups could be accommodated in very little space. Another favourite was in the middle of a park in Hanover  where parents – mostly Dads as far as I could tell, joined their children on the weekend to build an enormous boat/cubby out of scrap timber, thereby not only encouraging the transfer of skills but also community spirit and companionship.

At the local Train Park

Somewhere for little bike riders to ride

Mini shop - enough to spark the imagination

Chimes to make music

While the ongoing evolution of playgrounds is wonderful to see and children will be enchanted with the new playgrounds, for a while at least, it is not the same thing as enabling children to invent things for themselves. Where are the neighbourhood " wild" spaces where children can hide, where they can climb trees and pretend to be in a jungle and build their own"houses" even though such things may look unsightly to adults. And where are the bits of timber, the fabric scraps, the fruit boxes and the discarded pram wheels we used to play with as kids?

Something to make you giggle
Great slide, and just as importantly a shady spot for a picnic or for parents or grandparents to sit.( Providing protection from increased UV will be even more important in future) . Quite impressive for a small local park, but I think more big climbable shade trees and more things which kids can do for themselves wouldn't go amiss
 
My guess is that in years to come that “mess” will repay society with creativity and innovation. It is also more fun. The only evidence I have of the latter, is that our friends and neighbours gladly abandoned their dolls and bikes for a chance to play with our home made puppet theatres and box cars and we were never ever bored.


* Apologies for poor photo quality - took most of these on my iPhone and haven't worked out how to edit them yet

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