20th April, 2011 - Posted by - 6 Comments
When planning enhancements to an outdoor playspace or playground, it’s important to start with one question: What do the children need to be able to do here?
Run, Jump. Skip. Spin. Balance. Climb. Hide. Gather. Dig. Build.
DREAM. PLAY. LEARN.
Often, adults get excited about a catalog or seeing a piece of equipment at another playground and they are off and purchasing. But stop and think. You may already have something in place that serves the same purpose as what you see…so start with the doing.
And don’t forget to get the kids’ input! What do they want to be able to do? What does their dream playspace include?
We want playspaces that encourage motor development, active play, creativity, imagination, and socialization. We also keep educators and parents in mind. After all, if it’s not a welcoming space for adults, they are less likely to spend adequate time there to allow children to truly benefit.
Here are some additional questions to ponder:
- Does your play space include a variety of developmentally appropriate play areas/learning settings and materials made of manufactured and natural materials to promote a diverse range of experiences for children?
- How many of these areas are part of your play space? Multipurpose, openspace; anchored play equipment ; wheeled toys; manipulative equipment; water play features; music and movement/acoustic play area; sand play area; balance beam/stepping stones; playhouse; flower or vegetable garden; loose parts for building; climbing tree; climbing/rolling mound; raised deck/stage
- What types of physical activity and movement are promoted by the key features of your play space?
- Does the play space offer a wide range of experiences for children? Are a variety of features present that can be changed and/or played with in many different ways? Do you see children being spontaneous, innovative, flexible, and creative?
- Are children adequately protected from the sun? Do natural or artificial shade structures provide enough shade to accommodate the total number of children in the classroom?
- Does your play space incorporate a variety of natural elements for children’s play such as such as trees, stumps, boulders, long grass, water, and pebbles?
- How friendly and inviting is your play space atmosphere? Is it clean, free of litter and kept in good repair. Are outdoor toys, loose parts and supplies appropriately stored and organized? Has visual and/or auditory interest and appeal been added to the play space?
- Are a variety of sensory experiences (i.e. touch/textures, smell, listening, looking, vestibular and proprioceptive input) incorporated in the play space?
- Are all children are able to get to everything they want? Are children across ages and abilities able to access and enjoy the play space and the opportunities it creates to participate with peers?
- Does the play space provide children with opportunities to do things that are exciting and adventurous? Are components of the play space characteristically open-ended, challenging children’s physical, social and cognitive abilities by having the potential for engaging in increasingly more difficult and complex activities?
- Does the play space meet local regulations for safety?
Really, there are a lot of things to consider. So, why not go out and assess your playspace? Download our HSBS Playspace Assessment. This simple, user-friendly tool will help you identify areas where you can improve and help you plan for the future.
Need more inspiration? Check out this great video from one of our grantees that used the Play Space Assessment to help them plan playground improvements.
Play on! ~ Bethe
Bethe Almeras, MS, is the HSBS Education & Outreach Director. A long time educator and play advocate, she is passionate about outdoor play and connecting children with nature. In her free time Bethe writes a blog, The Grass Stain Guru, and can often be found playing outside. She is particularly fond of squirrels. And turtles. And sandpipers. And…