Playgrounds are places where children thrive; where imaginations run wild. They are places of stimulation, socialization, excitement, joy and wonder. Our theory of play[grounds] is based on the premise that every child plays and interacts with the world in a unique way. Some children are climbers while others like to dig; some want to explore while others like to observe.
To begin, our playground design process starts with a question. What do children want from this play space? How can we create the most awe-inspiring play space where children and families will want to return over, and over again. Our aim is to offer opportunities to engage and delight each child, presenting the highest play value possible. With each new play space we build, we listen to, learn from, and observe the children for whom we create.
Six elements of play factor into each of our playground designs:
Children need variety in their play spaces; they need to be able to move from active, to imaginative, to passive play zones. The best playground designs maximize the use of and encompass the complete site.
Play structures and elements should be connected in an interesting and comprehensive way. The playground shouldn’t be separate from its immediate environment. It should blend seamlessly into it; incorporating connective pathways and topographical variations; making use of different ground cover materials; and incorporating trees, shrubs, seating and shade.
The complete play space and site needs to be thoughtfully designed to maximize play value.
For children to develop mobility, strength, balance and coordination, they need opportunities for free movement in an unstructured environment. They need places where they can climb, swing, hop, balance and learn to trust their own abilities. When they feel challenged and possibly fail, then succeed; they gain confidence and learn to make good choices. They need to have choice in their play – not simply be issued up a set of stairs.
A great deal of research has documented the need for children to have opportunities to take calculated risks, particularly for their physical development and well-being. Playgrounds of late have been excessively cautious and standardized. Extraordinary structures – themed or natural – offer free movement, graduated risk, and challenge.
We believe that playgrounds should offer graduated risk and challenge opportunities.
Many of today’s children are missing out on the beauty and joy of a connection to the natural world. The experience of nature has so many benefits that extend from childhood through to adulthood: improved physical and mental health, educational opportunities, community connections and environmental awareness. While we cannot bring a forest or stream to a park or playground, we can design with nature and natural materials to offer a better connection to the environment.
Our playground design aims to maximize the opportunities for children to interact with nature and natural materials.
Experimentation is central to child development. While manipulating sand, mulch and water kids create ponds, moats, and disappearing lakes. Hitting a xylophone and experiencing the vibration and variation of sound stimulates the brain and the senses. Including natural elements, like water, sand, rocks, and dirt helps children learn cause and effect; it enriches the imagination and stimulates curiosity.
Opportunities for experimentation and creation should be included in every playground.
Many children enjoy playgrounds the most when they can enjoy them with friends – new and old. Playgrounds are places where children and adults gather for fresh air, to expend energy and to socialize. They are places to spend an active or quiet morning or afternoon. Playground designs must include spaces where children can play with others and places from where they can find solitude to ponder and observe. Building nooks, berms, huts, seating and shaded spaces gives children a place to retreat from busy play. For some children with special needs, they are a necessary place of calm. Sand pits, water pumps, balancing logs and climbers encourage children to work together to build or chase each other in a game of tag.
Our playgrounds are designed and built to be as safe as necessary. They are reviewed and inspected to comply with CSA and ASTM safety standards to ensure they are free of hazards. However, we do not believe that challenge and risk should be removed from playgrounds so we prefer to push the limits of design. Children should not master all parts of our playgrounds on their first visit. They should want to return over and over again as they gradually develop cognitive and physical skills as well as self-confidence. We see that when safety is the over-riding consideration in the design and construction of play spaces, playgrounds are dull and boring. Playgrounds must be designed appropriately for different ages and abilities and they must be maintained; but they must not be dull or boring.