Playgrounds are an integral part of every community. There are places where kids spend some good time, explore new things, and express their creativity. They play a critical role in every child’s development. As such, they need to be safe and should have everything that kids require to have fun and enjoy themselves. A fantastic playground can look like a humble junkyard or a forested grove. It all boils down to how it was designed and what it offers.
So, what makes a good playground? Typically, a good playground incorporates different elements of nature, encourages friendly competition among kids, provides kids with room to explore, and creates zones for different energy levels.
You will know that a playground is good when your kids not only beg you to go there but always want to stay longer. It will have top-quality playground equipment that inspires kids to learn, discover, and enjoy their time there. It will also be safe and a place where everyone feels comfortable.
If you have been wondering what makes a great playground, you have come to the right place. In this post, we discuss everything you need to know about great playgrounds and some of the features they have in common.
Keep reading to discover what makes a good playground.
1. A Good Playground Creates a Sense of Place
Every great playground usually incorporates a “sense of place” in their design so that kids can easily identify with a particular theme. A playground without a sense of place looks generic and boring. It could be moved anywhere in the world, but nobody will identify with it.
A good playground strives to achieve a strong sense of place that speaks to the culture and community where it is located. The primary objective is to ensure that the local community can feel part of the playground.
It should be a source of pride not only for the children but for the whole community. It should foster a sense of pride and belonging. Keep in mind that the landscape, the weather, the traditions, the jokes, and the stories we tell make us feel connected.
Therefore a good playground will always connect with the local community in different ways. It will focus on infusing a sense of place into its design right from the start. The play structures and other aspects of the playground must concentrate on the cultural specifics of the local community to create an authentic experience.
How are houses built in the community? What are the names of the local businesses? How do kitchens look like? What are some of the common names in the community? How do the locals interact?
The primary objective is to make a playground a special place that local kids can identify with and relate their everyday lives with what you have in the playground. How is the playground different from any other playground in the world?
2. Encourages Experimentation and Invention
A good playground must have features that encourage kids to experiment and invent things. Instead of erecting large “post and platform” play structures that never change, find a way to help kids manipulate their environment and come up with whatever thing they want.
Providing them with a supply of simple movable elements that they can easily rearrange and create different items will stimulate their imagination and creativity, which could be a massive hit. The supplies don’t have to be expensive.
For instance, thin slices of tree trunks, buckets, sand, water, and other light objects they can move around will do the job perfectly. Easels made from plexiglass or outdoor blackboard are great for painting and drawing and can be cleaned quite easily.
Outdoor musical instruments are another way to stimulate kids and make them feel happy at the playground. Outdoor drums and xylophones encourage collaborative play and help children enjoy a change of environment and break from the monotonous activities.
You can create a simple outdoor stage with props and dress-up clothes to add a different dimension to the outdoor play. You should also encourage kids to invent different games and pretend to be different characters to encourage collaborative plat and foster social interaction.
3. Encourages Friendly Competition
A great playground must teach children different aspects of life and prepare them for what is to come in the future. Since competition is part of life, there is no better place of instilling the concept in your kids than a playground.
A good playground will stimulate competition among individuals or groups of kids to help them understand that winning and losing are all part of life. A good playspace must be rich with subtle opportunities for competition.
Be it double slide or parallel climbing where children can see who climbs across the fastest, having some form of play that requires competition is always a good addition.
You can also consider adding more areas for traditional games such as tetherball or basketball to encourage competition among kids.
4. Room to Explore
Although a good playground doesn’t have to be too huge, it should provide sufficient room for kids to explore things freely – both physically and figuratively.
A slide tucked behind a hill, a patch of grass, or a few randomly placed logs will always invite kids to use their bodies and brains in different ways to maneuver past these obstacles.
There should also be some open space for leapfrogging, playing a game of tag, or racing. A low canopy might be transformed into a gloomy cave or a bear’s den.
Typically, when a playground provides kids with enough room to explore, they tend to find more opportunities for play themselves.
5. A Good Playground Makes Room for Secrets and Surprises
If you spend a day walking through a busy city with a young kid, you will learn how to look at the world through different eyes. Kids are generally curious and will always try to figure out things on their own.
They will be hypnotized at finding that small crack in the sidewalk, delighted by the way the trash bin lid swings, and fascinated by the constant movement of falling leaves floating through the air.
For a moment, you might feel pissed off, but you have to appreciate the fact that kids see things differently. Most of them are attuned to the small wonders of the world.
For them, the magic and fun of a playground sometimes lie in the small details that adults tend to ignore. Therefore, a good playground will always have little surprises that can only be discovered while playing.
They include the small pictures perfectly painted in corners and nooks, exciting textures, secret hiding places, peepholes, talking tunes, and unexpected sounds. These things make a playground interesting and enjoyable.
6. Modern Surfacing Materials
A good playground will also have modern surfacing materials. With a good surfacing material, you can create a safe playground that can be used throughout the year for different purposes.
A good playground surface material needs to be safe, easy to maintain, and durable. It should also be suitable for children to play on.
Asphalt has been the leading playground surfacing material, but there are other great options to consider. Asphalt is relatively expensive to maintain, and its hard surface causes frequent injuries to kids. Its hardness also makes it unsuitable for use underneath the climbing equipment found in many playgrounds.
Today, it is not surprising to find more than one surfacing material in a playground, each fulfilling a different purpose.
For instance, the wetpour surfacing can be used in places where younger children will be playing or under raised equipment from which kids may fall.
Public and private playgrounds must offer accessible spaces that allow kids with different abilities to approach, enter, and use it. That means accessible pathways and platforms that can accommodate kids living with disabilities.
The play must also be inclusive and shouldn’t discriminate against kids living with disabilities. The playground should create equal opportunities for children of all abilities to play and have fun together.
Some modern playground equipment does this perfectly. For instance, some companies have manufactured all-round merry-go-round equipment that offers back support that is fun for all kids regardless of their abilities.
There are also a few swing sets that feature safe platforms for wheelchairs. Some playgrounds have also created wheelchair accessible gardens and unique sand play features that allow children living with disabilities to pull up easily and play with soil at their height.
Such modifications are put in place to eliminate the social stigma that disabled kids may face at the playground. Having an accessible playground with good surfacing is another excellent way to allow children of all abilities to navigate through space without facing any problems.
A good playground is a place of discovery that offers your child new experiences every time he/she is there. It encourages your little ones to express themselves and showcase their creative and imaginative skills.
However, before you step out and head to a playground, you must ask yourself whether it is good and serves its purpose.
There is no point in taking your children out to play only for them to get bored and start demanding to go back to the house. Take time to find or build a good playground for your kids and watch them develop tremendously.