On a mission to get kids outdoors
This happens when children decide to investigate their physical surroundings, exploring new spaces and ‘ranging’. What they require are places that provide spatial diversity and interest, opportunities to move into unknown territory and environments that stimulate their curiosity and imagination.
Playing pretend allows children to stretch their imaginations, create their own worlds and explore real life situations in ways that are manageable for their stage of development. They need flexible environments that they can adapt for their own purposes and which stimulate all the senses.
We all need time and space to be still and relax. For children this time is vital for integrating the many sensory impressions they encounter throughout the day. Quiet play allows them to rest, dream and refuel their brains and bodies. They need spaces that feel safe, comfortable and contained.
Children’s minds and bodies grow in relation to their physical environment and require experimentation and challenge to reach their full potential. Physical play helps children understand what their bodies are capable of and allows them to take the necessary risks required for healthy development.
Loose Parts play
Banging on pots, making mud pies, building dens – these activities teach children about the physical and textural qualities of materials and how different elements fit together. Loose parts play offers sensory pleasure as well as developing hand eye coordination and problem solving skills.
Lanhydrock is a big estate with a stately home near Bodmin, Cornwall. In 2014 they were developing a new welcoming space near the main entrance to include a new café and shop and wanted something extra to attract people in. The National Trust wanted to broaden their family offer and make their offerings more attractive to parents and children. They were looking for a unique, natural, high quality design in line with their image and their mission to get kids outdoors.
They approached us after seeing our work at Kimberley Park and Cotehele National Trust. They wanted an adventurous, natural, wonky, wild play space that would be challenging for all ages, incorporating hills, earth forms and natural planting. Their vision went as far as including messy play with sand and water.
They realized it was important to have it near the café so parents could have coffee and the kids could play happily (and wash off in the toilets!). To fit with the natural setting all this wonderful play had to be integrated into the surrounding woodland.
A hub of play
We designed the playground in two parts. For older children we created a very high timber climbing tower, with lots of features running off it that are good for climbing, balancing , hanging and swinging. This eventually led to the wobble belt bridge and some balance beams which in turn led to a wooded area on the edge of the play space. This created an intense ‘hub of play’ which radiated out towards the edge of the forest, inviting children to play in the nearby trees.
For younger children we created a large play area with a water pump and rocky stream bed along one edge, a toddler play tower with wide slide and a sand play station with buckets and pullies. We also created an exciting network of tunnels: one led from the café into the play space and another led into a willow dome and on from there towards the basket swing. Routes and pathways through tunnels and over hills linked up different parts, providing hours of exploration.
A large amount of structural planting was used to screen the play space from the car park and shop and to enhance the biodiversity of the estate.
Lanhydrock adventure playground has been a huge success, boosting visitor numbers to the site and other national trust properties in Cornwall.
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