What makes a good playground?

I went to a fantastic playground on the weekend that I’d not been to before, which made me wonder – what do you need in an ideal playground? For me, you need:

  • a pretty big space for running around with a ball
  • either a fence, or a big area which you can easily see before you get to the nearest road or other hazard
  • interesting play equipment – things like a sandpit, a huge climbing frame, a game of snakes and ladders on the pavement, a big slide
  • Equipment for toddlers and bigger kids, preferably somewhat separated
  • The bigger kids equipment is too difficult for toddlers to play on (usually a climb to the first level does the trick)
  • A good regular supply of kids (not too many, or too obnoxious) so there is someone to play with
  • a nice spot for the adults to sit that you can see everything from
  • shade
  • picturesque location
  • takeaway coffee close by

In making this list, I realise that I’m incredibly lucky. Apart from the takeaway coffee criterion, I can think off hand of five or six playgrounds that fit most of this within a few kilometres of my place. I can even walk to one or two. Here’s a couple of examples:

Kesterton

Berry Island

When I read Miriam Peskowitz’s book The Truth about the Mommy Wars, one of the anecdotes that surprised me was her story of a group of parents in Atlanta pitching together and raising money so their local playground could become functional again. Here, our local council does it from the rates, most of the time. My local council is proud of its playgrounds (although it does tend to focus too much on the toddler end), but I’ve been to playgrounds in a few places in Sydney now, and they’re generally pretty good. They’re one of the small, unsung things that glue together a neighbourhood.

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