Safety First! The safe way is the best way. When it comes to architectural design for spaces utilizing playground safety surfacing, especially in places like amusement parks, theme areas, playgrounds etc., experts are frequently talking about safety for kids. Yet for designers of these facilities, it is as important as safety to sustain the sense of discovery in the play areas so that it remains to fascinate those young minds to keep coming to that place again and again.
Play in the outdoors has witnessed a major shift. From being freely in the woods and exploring the wilderness of daunting unknown places, today the play spaces and their experience is more in control of their designers taking care of liabilities with smoothing edges and softening surfaces.
What role do the playgrounds play in the development of children?
Playgrounds are commonly designed outdoors to enable children play, grow and develop. Modern playgrounds witness recreational equipment like see-saw, merry-go-round, chin-up bars, trapeze rings, playhouses, mazes and lot more. Such equipment help our children in developing their physical strength, muscle flexibility, brain and motor coordination. It also provides them with recreation and fun which supports their social, mental and emotional development. The outdoors also gives them access to explore the natural resources and beauty of the nature.
Research shows that outdoor exposure and activity makes them more adept to the social demands, culture and the world. Their motor skills are more developed in given responses to sudden unexpected things that keep happening in open surroundings. While playing with new children in the parks, they develop communication, negotiation and resolving problems and conflicts at their level. Their imagination gets expanded leaps and bounds. They are flexible and open to new ideas using irrational ‘out of the box’ thinking.
What are the concerns in designing playgrounds?
When the playgrounds are designed by professionals, it is influenced by specific purpose and audience. A “leading expert on play and playgrounds and a Professor Emeritus at UT Austin, Joe Frost expressed his concerns regarding development of children when confined to designed playgrounds. In his interview by the American Journal of Play in 2008, he cited that, “limiting children’s outdoor play negatively affects their overall development – cognitive, social and linguistic. It also hampers their physical fitness and health. It reduces their learning ability and their ability to cope with circumstances”.
These man-made, well-structured playgrounds are usually very brightly colored offering scope for discovery and creativity. Yet it is found to be largely limiting the liability. Since these places confine the place of play and the type of play for the kids, it trims the corners for their creative discovery and development.
Is safety second in designing playgrounds?
From safety as first and foremost and designing any spaces, it has been noticed that any designed place may either be good or bad. The same holds true for playgrounds. Self-build proponents, architects, landscape designers may include playground safety surfacing materials while designing playgrounds. Yet all of this may not conclude that they created good playgrounds. Despite all the knowledge and experience, use of safe materials, keepings children’s safety at the forefront, it may end up creating bad playgrounds.
Thus, we witness an increasing conflict between liability and creativity which needs to be addressed effectively and satisfactorily. Ben Progetti caters to resolve these conflicts by offering tech innovations in the field of playground surface materials. After all the ancient truth still persists that, “play and play environments matter”. Thus the play spaces should be such that despite the restrictions in designing these spaces, they provide natural environment and accommodate varieties of play.
What is visible is that design and visual appeal is hampering the discovery and creativity in kids. The outcome of this is that we have progressed in creating playgrounds, parks and spaces where kids can be outdoors. But we are behind in setting standards which will ensure that the place is serving the purpose. The core purpose of these recreational venues is to offer such a natural surrounding outdoors for children where they can play, discover and participate tapping new ideas and creativity.
Hence there is a dire need for implementing compliance with safety standards as a regulation which till date is not a legal requirement. Observing playground safety surfacing and using playground surface materials is a little step towards making it happen.