Canberra’s playgrounds should have more shade, and more challenging and diverse forms of play, according to a new report from the University of Canberra.
Commissioned by the City Renewal Authority, the Canberra Destination Playground Study Report by UC’s Play, Creativity and Wellbeing Project, Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, found that playgrounds had an essential role in people’s lives, and that the focus should be on bigger, quality playgrounds and not smaller ones.
Coordinator of the Play, Creativity and Wellbeing team Dr Cathy Hope said the unexpectedly high response to survey questions from people in the ACT and regions was a clear indication of the importance of playgrounds.
“It’s clear that playgrounds are still a tremendously relevant form of entertainment, activity and means of exercise for children, and their parents and carers,” she said.
“On average, respondents said they visited a playground at least once a week primarily to engage children in play, to socialise with others and to spend time in the natural environment.”
The report found people wanted more shade and shade cloth over equipment, but also shade over seating and tables, as well as more natural shade from trees.
They wanted playgrounds to encourage different and more interesting/immersive and challenging types of play.
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The report also found that people would like more and better facilities at or near playgrounds, including toilets, seating, barbecues and rubbish bins. Many people also requested greater access to drinking water – taps and bubblers.
They also wanted more fences, which after shade, were the most requested single item for playgrounds in Canberra.
The study found that Destination playgrounds were by far the most popular playgrounds in Canberra, occupying seven of the top 10 places, with the top two also the two newest; Boundless in Parkes, and Pod at the National Arboretum.
They were nearly twice as popular as the third most visited playground; John Knight in Belconnen.
The report said local/district playgrounds that appear in the top 10 were comparatively larger-scale playgrounds with multiple and/or interesting play equipment.
The UC team made eight recommendations including more shade, fencing around play equipment for younger children and windbreaks and other protection from extreme weather.
It also recommended more natural settings and nature-based play, and riskier, more challenging and imaginative equipment and features such as treehouses, flying foxes, mazes and water play areas.
There should be ample seating for carers and facilities, including water and barbecues, close to playground areas.
It also said that the Government should build larger, quality playgrounds and not more, smaller playgrounds.
The report will inform the design of a play space for West Basin and assist the Government in planning for future play spaces in the city area and suburbs.
City Renewal Authority chief executive Malcolm Snow said play spaces within the city and town centres were essential to creating a successful city precinct.
“In renewing our precinct we are committed to providing places for people that nurture positive experiences within our public spaces,” he said.
“This playground report will initially help us plan and design a unique play space for West Basin as part of future stages of redevelopment. The study shows there is a clear demand for destination playgrounds. As greater numbers of people move into the precinct it is crucial we provide safe and accessible facilities for people to play, socialise and relax.
“More than simply providing physical infrastructure, the provision of play spaces supports multiple health, wellbeing, social, and economic benefits.”
The report can be found at https://www.act.gov.au/cityrenewal