In urban areas most of the environment is planned by adults. Their way of looking at the environment is utterly different from the view of children. Therefore, it is important that children have places to appropriate in the city. But how can you plan places where they are allowed to play freely without a fear of anything?
If you thought about creating playgrounds, you are on a good track. They are a perfect example for spots in public that kids think about as their “own”. In our latest group task, we worked with the topic, children, in an urban context where the main purpose was to study the environment’s significance for children. We started off by asking ourselves: what makes a good playground?
At the beginning we all had the assumption and discussed that a more nature-like environment can more likely provide better opportunities for children’s play while more artificial spaces will not offer the same range of affordances. That a place with diverse vegetation, berries to pick, branches to collect and thus more open for creativity always wins the battle against a pre-set static design. We also thought that there were distinct views on what makes a good playground from different perspectives. The children’s idea of a good playground is not necessarily the same as parents and planners think about. They don’t care about safeties at all, just want to play. Whereas parents surely do, moreover, they don’t want sand, loose material, snow and dirty kids to take home. So we were longing for finding out the truth!
We chose to look at two different playgrounds in Lund to compare. They were ideal for our observation because they differ in their setting, age group, size and creating contrasting atmospheres for playing. We were fascinated to learn more about the different view of the people who visit the playgrounds: children, parents and teachers. Therefore, our method was not only based on going to the places and observing but making interviews with our target groups: children, parents and teachers there and find out more about their beliefs.
During our week’s long research, we both found astonishing and reassuring facts about the topic. But guess what. Even though, it might sound like a cliché, we came up with the conclusion that there is no playground such as good or bad. After looking into our two cases, we could tell that neither of the chosen examples are perfect but according to our observation, both of them have good values. Both places are popular among children, which is important to accentuate, because the biggest criticism always comes from them, alias the users. If they like it, and as it turned out, they do like it in our cases, there cannot be a huge mistake.
However, there was an unexpected turn in our study. Surprisingly, the rubber paved, hyper technologic playground with ready-made static equipment scored just as good as the other, where the focus is nature-based. Still, we faced with a funny situation at the artificial playground, which made us smile and wonder. In the middle of the site, packed with ultramodern tools, there stood a tiny pile of snow which the park maintenance forgot to take. Now you can have a guess what became the most intriguing tool of play for all the kids… Not the blinking, sound making, crazy super-duper equipment. Nope. It was exactly the little remain of the snowfall!
So, maybe our assumption was still not that wrong? …