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Designing a Smart Play Space for Schools and Public Parks

We live in an ever changing world, and play space design must evolve as the characteristics of the play space change with increasing urbanisation, and shifting social demographics.  The need for play opportunities for kids has always been there, but never before has it been so important to balance the domination of technology in our lives with attention to their physical and social development needs.

The need for children to develop strength, coordination and physical well-being remains vital. Above all, kids need to have fun while doing so. Playgrounds allow us to create a place where kids can learn and play at the same time in an environment that is encouraging and comfortable. This is why designing a smart play place is so vital.

What Modern Play Spaces Need

The designers at adventure+ have observed trends in playground design for over 30 years. One of the most significant developments has been a more holistic approach to play space design; less about just designing play equipment, and more about designing stimulating play spaces. A well balanced, stimulating playground should have the following:

  • Space where the landscape elements, both hard and soft, interact functionally and aesthetically with the formal equipment.
  • Spaces that not only look good but inspire a child’s imagination through role play as well as physical development.
  • Spaces that create a sense of adventure while safely challenging children and remaining safe.
  • Spaces that cater to children with special needs, from different age groups, and with different interests and abilities.

As modern society focuses more on child care the design brief for play areas is becoming more and more conscious. Here at adventure+, we understand it’s important to provide for a variety of age ranges, cognitive abilities, and accessibility needs. A smart playground is one that not only meets it’s needs but has considered and exceeded all of them.

Another aspect to consider during the design process is that the user group (consisting of young children) are often exposed to play spaces that must accommodate users of differing and diverse abilities. For whatever reason, the management team may need to segregate and/or combine these diverse sets of abilities within the same centre and play space. This should be taken into consideration quite early within the design process. A method of designing for this design constraint would be including varying tactile experiences for younger age groups. The play space needs to be flexible in this sense, and capable of being used by a range of different users.

Multiple Factors When Designing School Playgrounds

School playgrounds are quite different from public play areas and parks. The commercial drivers rarely come into play, and the overall play spaces are much larger. Here play is much more focused on ball sports in both informal play as well as formal matches. Social interaction often occurs in passive recreation spaces.

The inclusion of formal, multi-function play equipment is vital for school-aged groups, which may need more adventurous climbing activities and opportunities to exert their energy and stimulate their developing brains and bodies. However, with the spotlight on teachers’ duty of care, ease of supervision is a significant factor in play space design in schools. SunSmart requirements also make shade an integral part of any proposal. Designing the right play space for a school involves more than just making it look good. All of the above aspects, some less obvious than others, need to be considered in order for successful and holistic design.

The Challenges of Designing Public Play Spaces

Public play spaces present a completely different set of design challenges and opportunities. Multiple factors need to be taken into account, but with this also comes a wealth of outstanding design solutions that can be achieved too.

Increasingly, integrated landscapes form part of the design solution, with an emphasis on a variety of tactile experiences, spaces for social interaction that stimulates adventurous or imaginative play. Here are some of the challenges that often come with designing smart public playgrounds.

  • Diverse user groups

The range of ages and abilities and each one’s individual needs for inclusive elements can be hard to cater to, although never impossible. Users with special needs, or indeed carers of special needs children, will pose different design challenges. A successful design solution will consider everyone’s needs equally and ensure a play space is accessible and safe for all it’s users and their needs.

  • Theme requirement

Public play spaces may be designed to follow or fit a theme requirement so that either the form or function of the play space complements or dictates the particular venue or environment. Themed playgrounds can encourage children to use different dialogue or engage in specific activities. Themed play spaces also encourage more creative and imaginative play.

  • Topographic features

The existing topographic features in the location, including gradients, mounds or terracing, together with existing trees or vegetation, may be difficult to eliminate and, thus, need to be incorporated in the design. What are your limitations and how can you overcome them or adapt to them while still creating a safe space for play.

  • Other factors

Other factors such as access and traffic flow, sun direction and shade or sun exposure, and the proximity of parking or picnic facilities, should all influence the design of your play space. These are the factors that will effect your users in the long run. These are also factors that are neglected where poor design principles are used. A choice of subsurface materials, edging styles and shade structure designs need careful evaluation in order to get the best results.

Designing A Play Space For Early Learning

A well-designed early childhood play space includes a balance of fixed and movable play equipment, soft shapes and props for imaginative play, as well as sand and water play activities where appropriate. Overarching this is the commercial need to have a visually attractive, eye-catching play space. This is one of the key elements used by clientele in making their child care choices.

When it comes to designing a play area you can’t simple plonk a standard playground package into the middle of a bland paddock! There is no one size fits all. Smart play space design needs the input of skilled personnel who understand the trends and constraints of play equipment manufacture, together with an intimate knowledge of the requirements of different types of play spaces, safety standards and age-specific requirements.

Playground manufacturers such as adventure+, that offer customisable and adaptive products, provide safe, stimulating cost-effective design and construction packages that are tailored to the specific requirements of your project. Whoever the designer is, the way to ensure the best results for all is by nailing a clear and thorough design brief from the get go. Our kids deserve the best, so why give them any less!

Partner with adventure+

At adventure+, we have over 35 years experience developing innovative playground structures for thousands of children across Australia. We are more than just a supplier of play equipment — we design play spaces to encourage learning and development. This allows us to have a more holistic approach to developing smart play spaces, no matter the location. Count on us for quality play equipment and equally exceptional playground design services.

Get in touch with us for more information.

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