Inspiring children through play is a rewarding undertaking, but it’s the quality of their play that’s critical to the way they learn. Playgrounds provide an environment where children can grow and develop on multiple levels. However, one playground certainly doesn’t fit all!
For example, babies like to respond to things that don’t require physical input. Toddlers like a variety of different stimuli. Pre-schoolers love to build, manipulate and change things. And children over five … well, it often seems they need greater physical and mental challenges every single day!
In terms of design, playgrounds need to support and encourage a variety of experiences from encouraging sensory, language and gross motor skill development, to offering opportunities for creativity, social interaction and problem-solving.
Our new course – the Certificate of Playground Design – is ideal for builders, architects, landscape designers, educational institutions, parents or anyone who wants to create safe and engaging play spaces for children. Update your skills and enhance your CV today!
- Gain an overview of parks and playgrounds
- Learn about what makes a playground and playground classification
- Study the different types of playgrounds including ‘big toy’ and environmental playgrounds
- Understand how to manipulate and change environments
- Discover play forests
- Examine what makes a playground valuable
- Learn how to determine the functional value of a playground design
- Explore playground planning, design and the site planning process
- Study playground philosophy
- Gain insights into how to define the importance of play
- Examine the theories of play and significance of play
- Understand play from a modern perspective
- Learn about playing and the environment
- Explore how to establish an adventure playground
- Gain insights into a playground site design
- Study how to plan comprehensively for play
- Gain an understanding of structure planning
- Examine the general planning theories
- Learn about the stages in the planning process
- Explore how to undertake a site analysis
- Study how to undertake a project questionnaire
- Understand how to develop a concept
- Discover how to prepare a final plan
- Examine playground design principles
- Gain insights into how to create playground effects
- Undertake a step-by-step design procedure
- Learn how to reduce costs when planning a playground
- Study how to compare and then choose construction materials
- Examine playground barriers, walls and surfaces
- Learn more about using wood in playground construction
- Undertake a checklist for play structures
- Explore sandpits and the use of water in playgrounds
- Understand the social considerations needed in playgrounds
- Gain insights into park and playground buildings and structures
- Learn about what sorts of plants are suitable for a playground
- Study how to site a garden building and plant around it
- Gain an understanding of what other buildings to use
- Explore floor options, earth forming concepts and how to create mounds
- Gain insights into hiring the required machinery
- Learn about special playgrounds and facilities for individuals with impairments
- Study local neighbourhood parks
- Explore fun and fitness trails
- Gain insights into bicycle paths and tracks
- Learn about skateboarding, motorised vehicles and BMX facilities in playgrounds
- Study outdoor multi-purpose courts, and their elements specifications and usage
- Discover how to interpret a park, what can be interpreted and the methods of interpretation
- Gain insights into community participation in park development
- Learn how to plan community projects
- Study how to undertake a feasibility study and needs assessment process
- Explore the nature of community gardens
Case Study: What Makes A Good Children’s Playground Design
According to a study done a few years ago by research academics Dr Lisa Wood and Dr Karen Martin from the University of Western Australia, not all playgrounds are created equal. In fact, they believe many don’t meet children’s needs or expectations. So what elements do they see as typifying a good children’s playground?
The first of two important elements involved in playground design is the function. Playgrounds should encourage:
- Creativity and problem-solving. High-quality play experiences contribute to children’s cognitive development. In all children, play promotes initiative and can also increase a child’s ability to concentrate, which are essential life skills. In younger children, play can improve sensory stimulation, and in older children, creative play promotes initiative, concentration and coping skills in terms of flexibility towards solving problems.
- Social interaction. Through play, children learn skills like leadership, empathy, sharing and negotiating. Play is also crucial for language development, and symbolic play (where children’s play reflects real-life scenarios) is linked to language acquisition.
- Physical activity. Active play has been shown to promote resilience, positivity, and an enhanced learning process. It also helps support brain development, builds strong muscles and bones, improves movement, balance and coordination skills and helps children achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Interaction with nature. Natural playgrounds typically provide children with more opportunities for gross motor skill development. Interacting with nature has also been associated with increased creativity, improved cognitive function and a reduction in aggression.
The second important element involved in playground design is form, and this includes:
- Natural features. Children prefer and are more likely to use nature-based playgrounds because they typically find them much more engaging and challenging. From interacting with plants and animals to engaging in ‘messy’ play with sand and water, nature is an explorer’s wonderland!
- Children’s needs. A playground design should also offer facilities that cater for different ages and abilities by providing a wide range of experiences. Physical barriers should also be reduced through the use of shaded rest areas, easy-access amenities like toilets and water, and equipment like ramps for those with disabilities.
- Safety plus risk. Although safety is paramount in playgrounds, children both need and want to take risks to explore their limits. Challenging play can build their self-confidence, adaptability and resilience, and allow them to assess and manage risk. Children also prefer playgrounds that have a degree of novelty and complexity, which can be in the form of sensory stimuli related to sight, touch and sound.
Top 12 Playgrounds in Australia
In 2016, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects held an Australia’s Best Playground competition that recognised the work of professionals who had created some amazing playground designs. Although there were 40 all up, here is our pick of the top two from each state.
This park has a theme of ‘deconstruction’ displayed in its suspended concrete slabs, steel mesh tunnels and huge concrete panels of varying angles and heights. Children can explore a series of play zones and features including a climbing wall, a three-metre-high slide and a mesh cage suspended eight metres off the ground!
Here children can explore a 600mm-deep pool fed by a sculptural waterfall, and a 1.5m deep lap pool with a ‘beach’ entry. Little ones will also love the wading pool filled with water play experiences, including steppers, ripples and squirting elements.
This playground design features a range of natural play elements including a sandpit, water play area, high rope traverses, and a large climbing structure made from ropes and logs. There are also three metal slides – a gentle version, one that’s short but very steep, and one that’s fast, steep and very twisty!
Melbourne’s version of Jurassic Park, this playground features a flying fox covered by a huge dinosaur frame, a 20-metre-long climbing frame with nets and a slide, and a pterodactyl basket swing which forms a cubby house. There are also a variety of natural elements, including a creek bed where little ones can search for dinosaur eggs!
New South Wales
This playground features a single and double flying fox, giant swings, wooden balance beams, a merry-go-round and a huge slide with a climbing wall. It also has a fantastic loop for children with a bike or scooter, and sand diggers and a water play area complete with play pump for smaller kiddies.
This playground is filled to the brim with exciting activities for little and big kids alike. There’s a spinning chair, merry-go-round and climbing net and swings, slides and in-ground trampolines. There is also a flying fox with a self-locking mechanism that makes it suitable for children and adults of all abilities.
With a theme of the earth’s biomes, this playground design features a natural creek bed filled with frogs and tadpoles and a vast sand pit representing the hot deserts of the world. Children can climb, slide or skip their way through unique play spaces including a rope climb, trampolines and a bamboo maze.
This park is community inspired, centred on active play and suits a variety of age groups. There are water play activities for all ages and two playgrounds catering for children aged up to four and from four to 10 respectively. Older children will also be entertained with basketball hoops and ‘teen zones’ for bikes, scooters and skateboards.
This playground features an array of exciting experiences for children both young and old – from sand, water and ‘imaginary play’ areas to diverse swinging, rocking, climbing and spinning experiences. And for older ones? There’s a giant swing in the ‘teen zone’ to get the adrenaline pumping!
With lots of diverse playtime fun for children under six, this playground features a climber, bird’s nest swing, rope challenges, and an area for sand and water play. There are also ‘journey pathways’ to explore and a wooden puppet theatre that tiny tots will love!
This wooded wonderland is located in the heart of the city, and with its walking trails and parkland lookouts, is the perfect spot to enjoy a day out with the family. But what about the kids? They’ll be more than occupied with a suspension bridge, an open-air swimming pool and the world’s longest single-span chairlift!
This playground will thrill would-be sailors with its themed interactive ‘Boat Park’. Features include sandpits, a range of climbing structures and a do-it-yourself water pump. It’s also disability-friendly with its Liberty Swing, the world’s safest and most-recognised swing for children and adults in wheelchairs.
Playgrounds are child’s play – but their design certainly isn’t! Fire up your creative streak and inspire future generations with our Certificate of Playground Design.