The playground is such an important part of the community. It is a place where children can go for physical activity and it is a place for families to gather and meet others in their neighborhoods. It an also function as a community resource for parties, meetings and more.
Because playgrounds are such a vital local resource, it is important to make the most out of these public spaces by adding a sense of excitement and that starts in the design.
When thinking of playground design, landscape architects should be aware of creating a space that is safe for children, allows for inclusive play and provides a protective atmosphere that dissuades criminals. However, they should also think of ways to make the area intriguing and fun so that children and families will love to spend time there.
Keeping that in mind, here are some of the latest trends that can make your local park a place children and families just won’t be able to get enough of.
Playground Design Themes
A good way to make your play area a place kids will want to visit is by incorporating a theme. When thinking of themes, the possibilities are endless. Here are some that have been successful in promoting engagement.
Childhood Themes: The themes you use should be focused on what will appeal to children. Apparatus can be designed to resemble pirate ships, spaceships, medieval castles and more. Children can spend time searching for buried treasure in shady coves or setting sail on an adventure. These are terrific, unisex themes that are made to cater to a child’s short attention spans.
Musical Education: Musical education can be another great theme to incorporate. It is a wonderful way to stimulate speech and cognitive and motor development in younger children and children with autism and other sensory issues.
Drums, chimes and bells can be incorporated into the apparatus giving children the chance to interact and make their own noises. The best part is, no prior musical knowledge is necessary. Children are welcome to bang on instruments and make the noises that delight them.
Adventure Playgrounds: This is another trend that is becoming more popular for children. Contrary to many who believe it is a newer concept, it was actually first developed back in 1931 by designer Carl Sorensen who noticed that no matter what he built, children seemed to find new ways to play on the apparatus beyond its intended purpose.
These adventure play areas can take many forms ranging from natural to junk playgrounds. The common thread is the presence of playworkers (or wardens) and the absence of adult made rigid play structures like swings, slides, seesaws and climbing bars.
Nature Playgrounds: What kid doesn’t love rolling around in a pile of leaves or climbing up a tree or a big hill? Nature themes take this idea to the next level by combining landscape elements with natural materials and structures to create areas that resemble miniature pockets of nature. This type of design provides safe, accessible play for children and a way for them to bond with nature.
Innovative Approaches to Playground Design
Beyond incorporating clever themes, your design can take an innovative approach that will make it inviting to all local residents. Here are some examples of parks that make inclusiveness a priority.
Inclusive Playgrounds: These provide apparatus that is accessible to all children that play there. There are no ‘special needs’ sections because all the equipment is designed to challenge all of the children and there are no divides when it comes to play areas. Some inclusive play areas also offer therapeutic activities and features like horseback riding and an accessible fishing pond.
Multigenerational Playgrounds: While most play areas focus on the needs of the children, it is important to remember that they can be a great place for people of all ages to gather. Therefore, shady benches for sitting can be a real perk for adults who go to parks for some sunshine or to bring their children out to play.
Some parks even offer activities adults can engage in such as game tables, fitness equipment and obstacle courses. This way, both children and adults can enjoy an afternoon out in the fresh air.
Funding for Your Design
Of course, a more advanced playground design can also require increased funding and with an uncertain economic climate, parks and recreation often do not get the monetary prioritization they deserve. However, if you are seeking funding for your design, there are several potential resources.
Some of the more obvious ways to fundraise include asking local businesses and donors for donations or hosting fundraising events in your area. A more out of the box idea is to consult the NRPA Grants and Funding Resources Web Page to learn about funding opportunities.
The internet is another great fundraising resource with websites like Fundraise, Crowdrise and Neighborly all being the perfect platforms for you to receive donations.
A playground is a terrific neighborhood resource and the right playground design can make it more likely to be utilized to promote social and physical activity in communities. These are just some of the innovative approaches that can make your play area into a local landmark that will help it reach its full potential. Good luck finding the design that is perfect for your neighborhood.