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PLAY


ENGAGING IN PLAY


Four commentators who work within the play sector give their views on what to consider when designing a play area to capture children’s long-lasting interest


DUNCAN WOOD-ALLUM DIRECTOR, THE SPORT, LEISURE AND CULTURE CONSULTANCY


particularly in holiday periods. Having visited the City of New York Parks and Recreation Department in April 2009, I was introduced to some innovative programming in areas of limited outdoor space, under the strapline ‘It’s your playground’. A couple of initiatives in particular caught my eye.


W The Imagination Playground concept was a set of building blocks, or boxes, which


e need to be directing more reve- nue to support programmed play in parks and urban open spaces –


contained a variety of loose parts, such as foam blocks, sand and water tools, as well as tarpaulins, fabric and milk crates, which chil- dren used to create their own toys and games. Supplemented by sand, soil


and natural features within the play area, this concept was suited to its tight urban outdoor space and encouraged ‘free play’, which is critical to children’s in- tellectual, social, physical and emotional development. Trained play workers facilitated activity at each playground site but they let the children direct their own play.


Another play concept was the


annual free Street Games festival – held in Thomas Jefferson Park in Harlem and supported by the Walt Disney Corporation. This initiative brought the clas-


sic street games back from the 60s and 70s. Pogo sticks, double-dutch (skipping), hula hoops and yo-yos were just some of the activities that families were encouraged to try, along with roller skating and skateboarding. Background Motown, Rock and Roll, and Soul music created a cool urban atmosphere, which encouraged ma- jor corporate sponsors to support the event, resulting in zero cost to the city.


MICK CONWAY, PROGRAMME MANAGER, PLAY ENGLAND


T


he key to creating and sustaining chil-


dren’s engagement in play areas is good design and a sense of place that incor- porates a range of


natural features as well as play equipment. In 2008, Play England published the De- sign for Play guideline, which remains one of our most popular downloads and led to what The T


imes newspaper described as the play revolution. More than 3,000 play areas were refurbished or created in line with the guidance and research has shown that these facilities are now more popular with chil- dren and families. As well as the physical design of the play area, a play facility provider should also think about its ease of access and inclusion for all. Other considerations should be fo- cused on whether it is safe, is it easy to get


Issue 4 2011 © cybertrek 2011


WILL CHILDREN AND FAMILIES ENJOY THE PLAY EXPERIENCE AND WANT TO RETURN?


to and explore, and will children and families enjoy the experience and want to return? Structured around 10 principles based on what works, the Design for Play guidance outlines a six-stage design cycle from prepa- ration through to review.


Play England has developed a range of tools to assess the quality of both staffed and unsupervised play areas and can pro- vide bespoke training and support packages to help those responsible for children’s play to implement them.


Read Sports Management online sportsmanagement.co.uk/digital 71


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