Thinking Outside the Sandbox
Substantial research confirms what most people feel intuitively, that playgrounds are an essential outlet for children. They improve social wellbeing, further their physical, cognitive, and emotional development and help mitigate the mounting crisis of childhood obesity (31% of Canadian children are considered overweight).
Given their immense value, it is encouraging to see playgrounds continuing to evolve. The predictable format—a square plot of land with sandbox, slide, swings and monkey bars—is increasingly giving way to new, inspiring environments that provide an alternative realm of experience and new kinesthetic learning opportunities.
Blaxland Riverside Park Regional Playspace at Sydney Olympic Parklands is a bold re-imagining of child-focused space that encourages free reign and free play. It is a place of creativity, with an undulating, free-flowing design that embraces the landscape while fostering imaginative games, and encouraging social interaction. Parents too are enticed to be active participants rather than supervisors.
The space incorporates a variety of materials, colors, and textures and features a 12-meter high slatted wood tower, giant swings hung in a swirl formation, futuristic turf climbing walls that envelop tunnel slides, and a giant rope climbing web with stunning views down the valley to a river below. The environment challenges and inspires, and pushes the boundaries of what a playground can be.
Knowing the value that playgrounds have in shaping the physical and cognitive development of children begs one to ask, who might I be today if this had been my playground? Are we doing enough to stimulate and educate our children with innovative play spaces?
Related reading: The Playground Project at the Heinz Architectural Centre
Images: JMD Design