Architects are absolutely key to InspiredPlay and to our clients. Together with architects, we create spaces where people of all ages and abilities can enjoy themselves through play or exercise. Every space planning process includes consideration of the functional and aesthetic purposes of the project, as well as the special features of the space and its surroundings.
When designing places for play, it is always our aim to put play value at the heart of provision. And we believe it’s important for architects too to know how to design good play spaces, which can be affordably maintained, give children the freedom to play creatively, and yet still allow them to experience risk, challenge and excitement.
Good news! With imagination, planning and an understanding of children’s needs, it is possible to create and maintain exciting play areas for children and young people of different ages, sometimes by making only small changes to existing provision. Keep reading for some ideas and practical resources for building new play areas in a fresher and more inspiring way.
What is play?
Children play in lots of different ways depending on their own interests and abilities, and enjoy different forms of play at different times and places. Play is about more than just ‘letting off steam’; it can be quiet and contemplative, as well as active and exciting. All children, including those who are disabled or have specific needs, should have opportunities to experience challenge and take risks while playing. Play is essential to the healthy development of children – not just their physical development, but their social and cognitive development too.
How do we create inspiring places for play?
Successful play spaces:
- Offer movement and physical activity with space and features that allow a range of energetic and strength building play experiences.
- Stimulate the five senses maybe providing access to music and sound, and different smells made by plants and leaves.
- Are good places for socializing, allowing children to choose whether to play alone or with others, to negotiate, cooperate, compete and resolve conflicts.
- Allow children to manipulate natural and fabricated materials and use tools.
- Offer children challenge and activities that test the limits of their capabilities.
Design your play space to enhance its setting, to fit its surroundings and enhance the local environment, complementing attractive spaces and enhancing poorer environments. Knowledge of the local area and its history will provide inspiration.
Design in the best possible place, locate carefully to where children would play naturally and away from dangerous roads, noise and pollution. No matter how well designed a play space is, in the wrong location it will not be used.
Design close to nature, providing access to natural environments like grassy mounds, planting, logs, and boulders. Make it a space where children of different ages and interests can play in different ways, where disabled and non-disabled children play together.
Design with your community in mind. A successful community engagement process will help create a space that both meets the community’s’ needs and is loved by its users. Don’t forget that children need opportunities to experience challenge, risk and excitement in their play.
Design for play value and environmental sustainability, using recycled or sustainably sourced materials where possible. And lastly, try to provide opportunity for evolution as the children grow, perhaps building some ‘slack space’ into the layout. Play areas that have every corner defined, so there is nowhere for children to invent their own play activities, can become dull very quickly, especially as children get older.
InspiredPlay Design Checklist
- Well located
- Makes use of natural elements
- Provides a wide range of play experiences
- Is accessible to both disabled and non-disabled children
- Meets community needs
- Allows children of different ages to play together
- Builds in opportunities to experience risk and challenge
- Is sustainable and appropriately maintained
- Allows for change and evolution
Are you a landscape architect looking for playground inspiration? Give us a call and let’s chat vision!