Planning the perfect play space - Education Matters Magazine
Beyond the Classroom

Planning the perfect play space

Ideal play spaces for schools should be inclusive, accessible, challenging and consider whole of life costs, according to playground specialists and consultants, PlayRope.

When designing a new playground for a school or updating an existing play space, there are numerous things to consider such as the age and abilities of the children who will be using the playground, the number of students it will need to cater for, how much space you have to work with and the type of play you are hoping to achieve.
Paths of Play

Equipment will be used differently by each and every child. Effort must be met with reward if the design is to stand the test of time (and repeated use). By rewarding a gruelling net climb with a spiral slide back to terra firma we encourage the child to return to the net and climb again.
It is also important to differentiate between “Play Value” and “Play Points”. An opportunity to play does not always translate into use if the equipment is poorly designed or positioned.

Through careful, considerate design, we can ensure that the products selected will influence the nature of the play.

An effective play space should appeal to children of all ages and abilities. This can be achieved through the careful selection of products (and their placement), materials and textures. By addressing the needs of a broad range of users we can encourage inter-generational play for children to create their own narrative, together.

Play equipment should engage with its user on both a physical and psychological level. Modern play equipment encourages physical growth through flexibility and weight bearing exercises.

Furthermore, by introducing a controlled level of risk and reward into a play experience children learn to assess and self-manage that risk. Therefore, it is important that play spaces provide a variety of risk levels, reward and challenges to accommodate different abilities.

Sensory play
Enrich learning experiences through hands-on play. By engaging the senses through experiential play elements, children are encouraged to explore the world around them. From a series of water gates, wheels, sluices and troughs; through to sand-shifting or even an outdoor musical garden – inclusion of sensory play in your next play space allows all ages to develop and interact.

A key ingredient of any playground is space. Products are designed to incorporate a Circulation Zone in line with recognised standards to ensure that users are able to move around the playground freely and without risk.
During the design phase, consideration should be given to the space required to move around the equipment. Likewise considerations around soft fall materials, location and size of pathways will all have an impact on the accessibility of your installation.

Whole of life costs
It is important to consider the likely whole of life costs associated with products. Often, cost of replacement or extensive maintenance can far outweigh the initial purchase price over the life of any product. Materials, coatings, location and intended use of products (and component parts) can have a bearing on the whole of life costs.

All too often clients only consider the initial purchase price and this may not necessarily reflect the most cost efficient purchase for the long run.

PlayRope delivers playgrounds that promote exercise, foster positive behaviour and assist in cognitive and social development. Using its extensive experience, PlayRope can transform a school’s vision into reality by providing playground equipment and design that promotes physical movement, social integration, independent play and discovery, as well as more challenging equipment to prompt the cognitive aspects of child’s play.

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