Let’s go to the playground… but which one?
There’s a few vibrant coloured children playgrounds in our towns, but they are becoming more and more alike, and leaving out some of the elements that children have always enjoyed, as well as elements that stimulate them…
Play time helps children’s emotional, physical, social and cognitive development. Therefore, spaces within school premises or in towns are quite important for the little ones’ wellbeing…
But what type of playgrounds do we have in our hometowns? Are they doing their job?
In an ideal scenario, children wouldn’t be confined to a restricted area so they can play and socialise with other children. That being said, playgrounds would even become unnecessary in a society that allows children to go everywhere.
However, in the world we live in, and mainly in cities, we are further and further away from that idyllic scenario.
Playgrounds shouldn’t be play time machines or tiny prisons to keep a child busy for a while.
A good children’s playground should have an inviting atmosphere, with water if possible, and allow children to come in contact with nature.
Given that there are fewer “wild” spaces in cities, playgrounds end up taking on the very important task of being the first contact children have with nature.
These must be spaces which allow for exploring, without revealing everything at first glance, and they should also be inclusive and adapted to every child, stimulating physical, social and sensory play.
And in order to make sure children enjoy the playground to the fullest, or even visit it, it is necessary to ensure that the adults accompanying them also feel comfortable. The adults’ comfort is another element that must be taken into consideration.
Nowadays playgrounds leave fewer and fewer room for adventure, so, perhaps, it would be important to add a bit more risk so that the child can learn to make decisions regarding danger, even when supervised by adults.
Some of the elements we know all too well are always a great option for playgrounds, but lately they have been less and less integrated. These elements include:
– Swings – a basic activity which stimulates the child on various levels, namely in what concerns motor skills, balance and coordination. Besides that, it is also an intergenerational activity.
– Climbing elements – great for children to develop awareness concerning their body, and for making decisions predicting what might happen.
– Upside down play is also great for developing motor skills.
– Free play, such as organised games of hide and go seek, hopscotch, or any others that teach children to communicate amongst themselves, and socialise.
– Ball games, which are great for learning how to manipulate a ball and search for strategies, developing critical thinking and problem solving ability
Luckily, original and pleasant spaces are beginning to pop-up around the world, which are non-stereotypical, unlike what we see in most towns.
As a matter of fact, it is possible to be original and provide several stimuli for children, such as is shown on the images below:
Comicbook Park – Turma da Mônica/Maurício de Sousa in Lisboa
An inclusive playground, for all children.
Castelinho Leisure Park, in V. Nova de Cerveira
Hetsch Park in Geneva
A park devoted to children, with swings, multiple climbing, running and jumping structures, a massive lawn (as this park is an old football stadium), and also a dancing fountain.
Blatterwiese in Zurich
Several options for swinging, climbing, playing on sand or with water, and also some chaises longue for the adults.
Blandan Park in Lyon
Teardrop Park in Manhattan
What really matters is playing!
Amália Souto de Miranda