New playground brings families together
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.
King George’s Park was very old and limited in its play value and scope. As part of the government’s Play Builder Programme, Plymouth City Council commissioned us to create a natural play space in line with their vision for more open-ended, nature inspired play that could meet children’s needs for physical exercise as well as creativity and imagination. It had to be a space that could accommodate all ages – from 3 to 13.
At the centre of the space we built a high tower which formed the centre piece, offering height and challenging climbing. Radiating out from there were log climbing tangles nets and ropes, which allow children to climb from the main tower to different smaller towers around the site.
We made use of an existing bank by putting a couple of towers at the top to give some height and running a slide off one of them. We provided basket and toddler swings to accommodate different ages and abilities. The entire structure was set in a big sand pit which acted as safety surface as well as a material to play with, a bit like being at the beach. For younger ones we created a big sand play area with hoists and buckets and constructed easy low level climbing structures.
To see an advert for how high-quality play provision can bring families together, come to King Georges Park. It is like an oasis in a desert.
I have seen children digging contentedly in the sand with their own buckets and spades and engrossed with the delights of the bucket pulley, mums breast feeding their babies under a beautiful shady tree, dads shouting encouragement to their offspring on the balancing ropes, grannies and granddads perched on log seating waiting for their charges to come and have a break on a picnic blanket and friends shrieking with delight as they share the net swing that goes really high. And the way that the children can enter the park, not just through the gate, but over the fence is a genius idea!
Please pass on my heartfelt respect and admiration to all those who must have the passion, vision and commitment to providing quality play for Plymouth. Keep up the good work because you are making a difference.
Connecting all the elements
The many different routes around the site linked everything together, while offering varying levels of challenge. We built two bridges over the existing metal dog fence to allow children to climb into the wider landscape of the park while still keeping dogs out! This created a sense of freedom for the children instead of feeling fenced in. In that wider landscape we put more natural features like a fallen tree for climbing on and a picnic seating area.
On the site as a whole we did a lot of planting to create an enclosed green space, providing a buffer between the busy road nearby and the play spaces.
It has been extremely well used over the years and has turned a neglected play area to a destination park where local families will gather to play and socialise.
Cycle through our other playscapes