Thursday, November 12, 2015

We Are Moving This Blog

We are in the process of moving this blog.

Please go to:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Play Charter

As we've mentioned, we're working with the Municipality of Anchorage on the development of a Strategic Plan for Inclusive Playgrounds. Our current blog goal is to target our posts specific to our thoughts and findings as they relate to the development of playgrounds where play is open to all, and barriers to universal access are reduced as much as possible (with a desire to be eliminated).

When we first started working actively with play design, we created a Playspace Design Guide to act as a primer for our clients. As we put this together, we came across a Play Charter that summarized quite well what we consider to be a solid general philosophy for the importance of play.

So... since a charter can be a very important place to start. Let's start with "The Play Charter".

Children need to play

Children have a natural inclination to play. It is essential to the healthy mental, physical, emotional and social development of every child. While the needs of older children and teenagers are different from those of young children, they are no less important.

Children need freedom to play

Play takes place when children and young people get to decide what to do and who to do it with, when they negotiate their own rules and boundaries, and their imaginations are allowed free rein. It is not performed for any external goal or reward. In supervised provision, trained playworkers have an important role in supporting children to help them create and explore their own play experiences.

Children need space to play

While children can and do play indoors, it is essential that children have easy access to outdoor space for spontaneous physical activity. Every child should have places to play close to home. General community spaces, such as streets or the spaces between buildings, are important as dedicated play provision.

Children need time to play

Children should have the chance to play every day, when they are not being told what to do, who to do it with or where to go.

Children must feel safe and welcome where they play

Communities must make safe, welcoming, accessible provision for all children to play, no matter what their age, physical or mental abilities, personal circumstances or cultural background. Children and young people who are different from the majority have a right to play in the same places as other children, should they want to.

Children are the best authorities on play

Children know what they enjoy and what makes them happy. Playgrounds or other spaces and facilities that will be used for play, including school grounds, will be more successful if children and young people are meaningfully involved in their design and in decisions affecting them.

Play is everyone’s responsibility

The ability for children to play freely outside is a sign of a healthy, vibrant community. While children do not need adults to tell them how to play, parents, communities and government do have a duty to ensure that children have the chance to play every day.

(Note: We provided a link to the original, but the original has disappeared from online and we can't find any reference to it with an active link. Original credit is either attributed to and/or If someone reading it knows where the home for this charter now lies, please let us know.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Playground of Our Youth: Yellowknife

I grew up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in Canada. Not quite at the Arctic Circle, but pretty close. When I was there, it was a fairly remote city of around 9000 people... tucked in the grandeur of the Boreal Forest and Canadian Shield on the edge of Great Slave Lake. Starting probably at the age of 4, my memories are of living next to what felt like rocky Canadian wilderness. We played in the woods, and if we chose the right path we could easily have wandered off never to be seen again... unless we were hungry for our snack and came back.

The most important memories of my school playground were not necessarily from play equipment, but how we interacted with the landscape: the local landscape of the school's particular site, and the landscape elements that it shared with the entire region.

While these photos show a playscape somewhat different than when I was a kid, they share much of the same character... and access to all that is special and natural to the area.

I like the fact my school had a crest - J.H. Sissons Elementary School

Equipment nestled into existing greenspace.
Schoolground... boreal forest and Canadian Shield.
I remember when this timber equipment went in.
Before the stairs, this was a sledding hill (I slid right into a stump).
My old tetherball stomping grounds. Tetherball now gone.
Ahhh... a walk down memory lane. (not at my old school... a city park)

The Site's Landscape:
A Landscape of the North:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Play Can Be (really) Cerebral!

A friend made a reference to "three-sided football" (soccer). Here's the wikipedia link:

Definitely a case of a game not just being a game... but, the overall concept of a three-sided game of soccer where the score is based on how many goals are conceded (not how many are scored) sounds like it could be quite fun...

The rules:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Imagination Playground Imagined

As luck would have it, my visit to the Imagination Playground in New York would require me to use my imagination. We arrived shortly after it had closed for the day, and it's surrounded by a pretty significant fence. It also looked like a portion of it is under renovation.

What immediately struck me is that the park really isn't that big, but it's designed in a way to have a significant number of features, and the space is made 'larger' through ground level and elevated components. That in combination with a supervised loose-parts play system would create a pretty good play and experimentation experience. Too bad I had to imagine what it looks like in practice.

I've included some photos below, but you'll need to find other photos online to see the whole thing in practice. We also have an earlier blog post that dealt with the concept behind the 'loose parts' and the imagination playground: Imagination Playground Post.

Our photos:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Klyde Warren Park - Dallas Texas

(Visited January 2013)
The food trucks beside this park point to a renewed way that we are looking at our public spaces. Success in a space often involves something to do, something to eat and somewhere to go to the bathroom. Looking this park up online also illustrates the changing approach to parks, with an excellent website and a very high level of event programming. The park even has free Wi-Fi. It would seem that many of its features might result from it being a public/private partnership.

With an ideal goal for park design being to provide something to do for everyone, this park provides the physical amenities that are specific to certain uses (i.e. playground and restrooms) and those that allow a high level of flexibility in its use. Success is measured by how many people use a park, and what times of the day a park gets used. Some of this visitation will be organic due to people visiting the park to use it's amenities, but a large number of people seem to come to this park due to how it's programmed (a calendar can be viewed on their website).

The east end of the park was being used lightly when we visited (during the late morning), with the game tables and activities being the most popular (ping pong and foos ball, with adjacent putting green). The west end of the park had a number of food trucks for lunch time, and a playground that was popular. For what would be expected to be a non-busy time, the park had a healthy level of use. I can only imagine how used it might be during more peak times.

Designed by: The Office of James Burnett

An interesting article on how the park was built: How Clyde Warren Park Was Built
Check out the Yelp Reviews: Yelp - Clyde Warren Park
It even has a Facebook Page: Facebook - Clyde Warrent Park

Addition to post: Metropolis magazine has an article on Dallas, where they reference the importance of this park to the urban fabric: Mission Impossible

One of the park entries: it's impressive that this park is built over a freeway.

The park is chock-full of stuff... including these arches over a promenade.

Lots of movable furniture.

A few shelters in this part of the park, more for shade than rain cover I'd think.
We were here on a weekday around lunch. This part of the park wasn't as occupied as that closer to the food trucks.

Definitely a wide variety of places to sit.

Ping pong table under a shade canopy. You leave your ID with a park docent to get the paddles and ball.

The park design is warm and friendly. Paving, planters and lots of seating elements. Also, a putting green. You leave your ID with a park docent to get the clubs and ball.

Foos Ball!!!! You leave your ID with a park docent to get the ball.

The park docent... enabler of cool games and guide to your enjoyment of this park.

Another park docent helping people with directions and enabling them to enjoy the park.

Bike racks. The use of a model with plastic bumpers is nice to minimize scratching paint.

Water features. I head that Dallas can get hot, hot, hot!

Lots of places to sit and socialize.

Food truck promenade. A good amount of options of food, and then great seating in the park.

A main lawn area in front of the play area.

Entry to the play area. A gateway is good for finding the way in, and certainly adds some fun.

The high point in a play area is always a favorite place.

Poured in place safety surfacing makes for a great pathway, and provides options for color and designs.

An interesting sign to see... but high heels would indeed damage the soft play surfacing. 

I think that a sure sign of success in a play area is seeing everyone's parents hanging around and talking to one another while their children play.

The green mounds are artificial turn. The natural materials like a boulder area  great design and play feature, and the native plantings certainly make this feel like a well-designed space.

This shows the thoughtful integration of 'natural' feeling elements into the playscape.

More food truck goodness.

What's better than a food truck? One that blows bubbles...
When we were looking at the park online, we found various local articles about it prior to and after its opening.