Playing in public spaces

One of my favourite blogs is The Cool Hunter.

I always enjoy finding the newsletter in my inbox – it injects a bit of colour into the world, with some wonderfully different ideas on everyday things. One of my favourite parts is the Kids section. Today it featured Reinventing Kids’ Spaces/Playgrounds. With lots of wonderful pictures of playful places.

For me the biggest problem with play is not just that children need to time to play, but also they often need permission. We live in a world where adults spend a lot of time telling children not to touch or to behave because they are worried about how other will view their children. Where parents worry that their children playing in the street or pedestrian areas are going to make too much noise, or upset other adults.

The play spaces pictures in the blog are wonderful, and making spaces bright and playful can be a great way to encourage adults to let go and let the children play, but actually many public places already have the potential to be wonderful playgrounds if adults felt that it was acceptable, and just let the children play.

We had a lovely time last weekend when we just sat in our local town’s sensory garden and let the children play. We let them climb on the benches and the sculpture. And pretty soon other children joined in to. Children will do this spontaneously if they are given the time and permission to do so. Everyday street furniture, fencing, walls, trees etc can be wonderful to play on and with. Every small child is drawn to walking on walls, swinging on railings and so on.

Another instance of adult aimed environment that makes a great play space for younger children is the outdoors gym in a neighbouring town’s park. Although aimed at over 12 year olds it makes an interesting and different play space for younger children too. My 4 year old found the equipment to be interesting climbing frames and my 7 year old enjoyed the glimpse into another form of adult exercise that would suit her, but which she is barred because of her age.

As The Cool Hunter  says public spaces could be so much more than they are now. Both visually and as play spaces for adults and children alike. Great design plays an important part, but even without that just a change in attitude can make a huge difference.

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