11 August 2022

Mum on a mission to swing past - and rate - the Territory's 500 playgrounds

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Mathew Bright, Eli Bright, Astoria Bright

Mathew Bright and Astoria Bright love taking their son, Eli, to playgrounds around Canberra. Photo: Astoria Bright.

For Canberra mum Astoria Bright, going on adventures with her four-year-old son to explore playgrounds around the Capital has always been a favourite activity.

It all started when Astoria wanted to take her son, Eli, to a playground outside the Gungahlin area (where they live). She opened Google Maps but struggled to find where playgrounds were nestled in each suburb.

“We kept digging for information and were able to eventually locate every playground in the territory but we wanted to make it easier for others to do the same,” she said.

So began Playgrounds of Canberra, a playground-related website that provides information about Canberra playgrounds to the local community, encouraging children to play and explore what’s out there.

As well as this, Astoria also created ‘Playground Finder’, an interactive map including a description, rating, review and images of each playground she’s explored around Canberra.

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The 27-year-old Gungahlin mum said she always loved going to playgrounds with her son, “but after the initial lockdowns of COVID-19 back in 2020, we were excited to get back out and see what other playgrounds Canberra had on offer”.

“We started Playgrounds Canberra as a way to share our information and experiences around playgrounds with the Canberra community,” Astoria said.

“Our goal was to connect the community to these play spaces that perhaps went unnoticed, encouraging people to visit even the smallest playground for its unique play features … which we believe we have achieved, working across multiple platforms like Google Maps, Playground Finder, Instagram and more.”

Bungendore Park

Bungendore Playground opened earlier this year. Photo: Mel Jeffreys.

Astoria said Canberra has more than 500 playgrounds, and she’s been to almost all of them and many across NSW.

“There are multiple things that factor into a good park, which can change from what you’re looking to get out of the experience,” she said.

“We believe in our family that any time spent outdoors, and at the playground, is a great benefit to the family.

She said it was the experience had at the park that determines whether a park is good or not.

Kid playing at a park

Eli playing at Astoria’s favourite playground- Forest View Nature Park in Forde. Photo: Astoria Bright.

Although Astoria finds it hard to pick her favourite playground in the ACT, she said one of her top picks would have to be Forest View Nature Park in Forde.

“The designers of the park incorporated the history of the area to repurpose the space for play and relaxation,” she said.

“It’s interesting to see what play can be when you take away the traditional slides and swings.

“This playground has been an enjoyable experience no matter the weather for our family.”

Park in Throsby

Joey Park Playground in Throsby is Eli’s favourite. Photo: ACT Government.

For her son Eli, she said playgrounds that provide multiple activities are always a hit, with Eli’s favourite being Joey Park Playground in Throsby.

“The playground engaged him not only by the equipment and layout but the opportunities it gives, with him being able to bring his bicycle to pedal around its track which is complete with signage,” Astoria said.

“It also provides a way for him to connect with other children.

“Often we’ll see groups of children form to take turns climbing up walls, bouncing on the trampoline or sliding down the slope.”

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The Canberra mum said her definition of a good playground is one that is well maintained and meets its users’ needs.

“Community playgrounds are the bigger, more everyday ones people tend to visit, not all are equipped with toilets, BBQs and picnic areas, but still provide a good opportunity to play,” Astoria said.

“Recreational playgrounds and district parks typically have these large facilities, and with a better understanding, the ACT Government has been providing more opportunities at these bigger playgrounds for inclusive play, nature play, dirt bike tracks and even SunSmart play.

“With every new creation of a playground in the territory, the ACT Government has been working on smarter guidelines to provide better and more effective playgrounds while raising the standard of what a good playground can be.”

Some of the key facilities Astoria said a playground should have include parking, toilets, lighting, picnic areas, security cameras, inclusive play equipment, nature play, water play, sun smart play with shade sails and bubblers.

She said she looked forward to seeing what Spring offers in Coombs and Whitlam with new playgrounds on the way.

Got a favourite playground? Let us know and why!

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