Playgrounds for all children

An empty wooden swing hangs over green grass.Inclusive play spaces are receiving more attention, but what equipment and design features are most suitable? Research in the US throws some light on this topic. Children, parents, teachers, landscape designers and equipment manufacturers all have a stake in the outcome. This means there are often gaps between what is required, what is available and what gets implemented. Building Playgrounds for Children of All Abilities looks at legal requirements and provides some useful recommendations. You will need institutional access for a free read. There is a useful reference list as well. 

There are several other good guides to inclusive play spaces including, Everyone Can Play published by the NSW Government.

Abstract: Schools and communities typically design and build playgrounds with little knowledge that the selected playground equipment meets the needs of children, caregivers, and teachers. In this article, the various categories of playgrounds are discussed and analyzed. The focus of this discussion includes an overview of the legal requirements and guidelines for school and community playgrounds, a description of prior research highlighting the inadequacies in currently available playgrounds, and an explanation of the trends in playground design over the years. We relate these topics to the need for universally designed playgrounds and a deeper commitment to designing playgrounds and play equipment that is empirically tested and meets the needs of all children, their teachers, and their families. By discussing practical examples and research findings to illustrate the gap between playground manufacturers and their play equipment and playground consumers, this paper serves as a meaningful resource for teachers and other stakeholders so they have the knowledge to advocate for their students with disabilities in playground endeavors. Taking recent research findings into account, we provide a vision for playground policy change.  

A city designed only for young and old?

a Disney type street facade with imaginative designs that look appealing to childrenA city only for children and older people and all other age groups are welcome on visitor passes? What would such a city look like?  A good question because having a visitor pass to your own city is what it feels like to groups who have not been considered in the design. The article, Diversity and belonging in the city comes from the Urban Design and Mental Health Journal. Erin Sharp Newton.poses various human perspectives on the city, urban form, architecture and design. A somewhat philosophical piece, but a step away from the usual thinking.

Can something be too useable?

A toddler sits smiling at a laptop computer screen.“Design is never neutral” is the title of an article by Adobe’s Khoi Vinh in the FastCompany newsletter. Is there is a down-side to making apps and websites too easy for children to use? The dilemma of course is that if young children can use these applications, most everyone else can too. But is this actually good? is the question: 

“Habits are formed around the usability of a product; if an app or website makes it easy to complete a task, users are likely to do it more often than not. Usability advocates often treat this as an inherently good quality; by and large every business wants their products to be easier rather than more difficult to use. But as the aforementioned research suggests, it’s become clear that guilelessly encouraging longer, more frequent sessions isn’t necessarily better for kids.” 

Playspaces: What children said

Front cover of the report with a child's drawings of two people and the sunThe voices of children are rarely heard in research literature. So the Launceston Children’s Views of Play Spaces report is good to see. The researchers believe that children are competent social beings and have a right to be heard. The report’s findings detail what the children wanted from a playspace. Socialisation was a key theme. Children wanted activities they could do with their parents as well as other children. So equipment that could be used by both adults and children were popular ideas. The research covers all aspects of design including, active play, imaginative play, challenging activities and risk taking. With a focus on wellbeing the report provides a good underpinning for playspace design that incorporates the importance of play in the lives of both children and parents. For more on inclusive playspaces see the Touched by Olivia Foundation which has several good examples. Also the Good Play Space Guide – I can play too by Play Australia is available to members.