Sun, playgrounds and laughter. No more whinging about the rain, I think it heard me last week. We’ve finally had a week of glorious weather – beautiful blue sky sunny days and crisp cool nights. Perfect winter weather, great for being drawn outdoors during the day and for snuggling around the heater, or open fire if you’re really lucky at night. This is how winter is supposed to be, though adding some mountains, a bit of snow and some chairlifts in there somewhere would make it nirvana for Mr Perfect
Besides the mountain of washing we’ve had to navigate, we’ve managed to plant the Drama Queen’s snow pea and broccoli seedlings and mulch them, plus she’s planted some new seeds, and is anxiously waiting to add them to her little Vegie patch. We’ve even managed to catch some run around crazy in the sun time.
We had a perfect sunny winters day today. Lunch with friends at the local sailing club. In the sun. On the balcony. Good food, good wine, great company. Munchkins were generally well behaved, but there is only so long that you can keep a Daredevil tied up in a high chair before he cracks it, so then it was playground time.
I have a soft spot for playgrounds. Besides being tremendous fun to play in and around, I spent a lot of the last 15 years of my landscape architecture career designing and building playgrounds around Sydney. I think they are the most inspiring things to design. If you are given the freedom to really let yourself go, the opportunities for creative expression are endless. I love trying to put myself in a 5 year old’s shoes and trying to work out what it is they need to transport themselves to whatever imaginary world they want to visit today.
There are a few things I think make a great playground, and they are also things that you can incorporate into your garden if you want to make it kid friendly. Besides the obvious safety issues, these are some design considerations that are easily incorporated into your home design.
Colour – kids love colour. It doesn’t need to be over the top, just enough to spark their interest, or you could go for a whole rainbow. Kids see colourful spaces as inviting, interesting and exciting.
Measured risk – If you can put some form of risk in front of a child, they will jump at it, some more cautiously than others. It’s the playgrounds that offer a sense of risk taking to kids that are often the most successful and popular. Flying foxes, climbing nets, swings and slippery dips all offer some sense of risk or out of control movement. We all know that the real risk is minimal on a well designed playground, but for a little person they think they could be conquering Everest when they hit the top of a huge climbing net. At home it might just be a balancing opportunity or stepping stones, but if it takes skill, effort and is a little bit scary they will love it.
Opportunity for imagination – Kids don’t need to understand exactly what it is they are supposed to do in a space or with a piece of equipment. They will experiment until they work out something fun. It’s also magical to see them turn a piece of equipment or a space into something completely out of this world. I’ve seen kids sailing through pirate infested waters, blasting off into space or on safari in deepest darkest Africa all within the confines of the same playground.
Ability to commune with nature – What little person doesn’t love picking flowers, collecting leaves or climbing trees? There are so many opportunities for learning and creative play within just one plant, imagine what a little mind can do with a whole garden, particularly when they’re chosen for their play value. Native grasses can be oceans, Hibiscus flowers make fantastic princess dresses and there’s always the timeless daisy chain necklace. And the dirtier they get the more fun they have.
The photos I’ve used to illustrate this post were taken today, and at the time they were taken I had no idea what I was going to write about, but they perfectly illustrate how one simple space can provide a variety of play experiences, and the things that little people enjoy in their play.
At the end of the day a playground doesn’t have to have swings and a slippery dip to make it fun, and neither does your garden. Just take a little bit of time to think like a 5 year old, and you might be surprised at the outcome.