What makes a good play area for children?
Playgrounds give place and structure for kids’ socialization, imaginative play, and physical activities. But not all playgrounds are creative anymore, and it seems that the spaces that are being designed are becoming increasingly unsuccessful in meeting children’s needs. Playing on playgrounds is what children need when they grow up, in their way. When they play, children choose what to do, how, and with whom to play. Through play, children explore the world and are questioned to take up duty according to their personal choices. Playing expands the experience, develops emotional reactions, and improves interpersonal skills. These include research and creativity, helping children to guess flexibly, developing the creative process, language skills, as well as learning and problem-solving skills. Now we don’t have to stop children from doing the things they enjoy because of the dangers that can be managed. All it takes is a balance between risk and fun. Children can recognize but, the danger and whether and how to control it is a necessary phase of growing up.
Successful play spaces:
- offer movement and physical activity
- stimulate the five senses
- are the right places for social interactions
- allow teenagers to manipulate plant and crafted materials
- offer children a challenge
Advantages Of Outdoor Playgrounds
Playing on playgrounds in nature provides kids with numerous physical, mental, and social benefits. Physical benefits include multiple developments of motor skills such as running, jumping, balancing, and strength. Participation in outdoor playgrounds encourages emotional improvement and enables children to critically take over, solve problems, and make decisions. During play in this environment, adolescents learn to take and control dangers and overcome fear.
Playing in nature playgrounds:
- leads to increased concentration and attention
- nurtures collaborative skills and stimulates social interaction and cooperative play
- allows for free explorative play due to the varied and changeable environment
- provides opportunities for creative play, quiet space, music, art and nature.
- allows young people to take physical and emotional action because there are graduate challenges or risks. For example, with the help of logs of different sizes and shapes, young people can climb or jump from a size that suits their ability.
- is convenient and difficult for all children, all ages, all sizes, all abilities, health levels, intelligence, culture, and gender.
- allows the use of one’s imagination and to be creative without limitations.
- is inclusive, not exclusive, of ideas and people.
- is suggestive, not prescriptive, in the activities one can do. For example, traditional playground swings are for swinging. In nature playgrounds, the sky is the limit!
- it allows people to connect with nature through play.
Examples of Nature Playground Features
- The boulders climb up and sit down
- Trees for color and shelter
- Flowers to smell and look at
- Grassy hills to roll down
- Streams and creeks to dam
- Ponds to catch insects and frogs
- Water parts for pouring, inserting objects into them, spraying and creating mud
- Logs to practice balancing or climbing
- Tree stumps to climb on or jump off
- Multi-sensory yard to explore plant life and safely eat fruits and vegetables
- Chimes, bongos, xylophones, sculptures, murals and other musical and art features to play and listen to
- Shrubs, vines, grass
A quality play experience contributes to children’s cognitive development, which certainly proves that children who no longer communicate in amazing play can also reduce their cognitive abilities. Play promotes problem solving, creativity, and initiative and can increase a child’s ability to concentrate; skills important later in life. In younger children, play is also necessary to improve sensory stimulation; in adolescents, creative play correlates with coping skills, indicating that play helps improve flexibility toward problems. Children decide and are more likely to use nature-based playgrounds than the usual playgrounds since they find them challenging and less boring.
Safe, but with some risk…
The playground must offer some security because the perception of safety affects the probability that the mother and father will let their children play outside. However, playgrounds must continue to offer a certain challenge, because that is the only way to attract children. If there is no small risk, challenge, it reduces the probability that they will use the park and therefore reduces their range of physical activities. Enabling children to play with exposure to challenges is essential because in this way they explore how to assess and control risks. It now not only teaches them the skills they will use as adults but also builds resilience, adaptability, and self-confidence. “Reasonable Risk” is a period now used by companies such as Kidsafe and the Scout Association.
Source: What makes a good play area for children?
Dr Lisa Wood and Dr Karen Martin, The University of Western Australia