Report urges bigger, more challenging playgrounds with shade and facilities

Ian Bushnell 7 August 2018 12

Pod at the National Arboretum is one of the most popular playgrounds in the region. Photos: Supplied.

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.

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.

Boundless is the most visited playground.

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

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12 Responses to Report urges bigger, more challenging playgrounds with shade and facilities
Rachel Ofgreengables Rachel Ofgreengables 11:52 pm 21 Feb 19

More deciduous trees are needed in playgrounds . They provide better protection from radiant heat and create a much cooler atmosphere. They do not fall as readily as gums and do not have the dry array of dust , ants and leaves – having instead grass underneath them. Another thing child centers lack is GRASS . Cool relaxing , lovely grass. Centers such as the one at Cook and Jamison show only tanbark , sand and no grass for little children. This is cruel and I simply can’t believe it in this day and age. Wake up Australia and don’t be so precious about your desiccated gums with dirt underneath. And be honest . Is it really so pleasant standing on dirt and dry leaves at the Cook half centenary? Deciduous are flame retardant and may save a suburb from bush fire and they have the ability to raise the water table and hydrate a landscape ie in the middle east they are being used to reclaim the desert. Possums , anticinus, wombats, native cats will hunt and live in these forest situations with deciduous trees as do many birds . They can find food and shelter in them .The real enemy are cats and foxes . Burning too regularly and drought, cause local extinction of anticinus. Reydrating the landscape with the help of deciduous trees is one answer to the problem. For understanding the rehydration process in the Australian Landscape see: Mulloon Institute. Not only does this cause permanent, pure, flowing water for the native fish, platypus, frogs , tortoise but it provides hydration of the soil and food for native animals.

Rach El Rach El 1:01 am 10 Aug 18

Aside from the lack of shade, why are all of these new playgrounds (the new one at Moncrieff comes to mind) built on high ground with no wind breaks? It is freezing some days and the wind becomes so strong it’s hard to hear the people with you. It is really unpleasant bringing kids to some of these new playgrounds for that reason.

playspaces playspaces 5:53 pm 09 Aug 18

I have a petition to increase the number of fully fenced playgrounds in Canberra.
Canberra has one fully fenced playground for ever 130,00 people and Queanbeyan has 1 for every 7,000 people. This petition will be presented at the Better Suburbs forum on August 19 that will decide how to spend $1 million on playgrounds. This is a low cost and easily planned way of increasing access to playgrounds for a parent or carer with more than one child under five or with a child with a disability, e.g. an autism spectrum disorder, pregnant women with young children, older people caring for young children and parents or carers who have a disability or health issue that restricts their movement

Hosinator Hosinator 4:27 am 09 Aug 18

More shade is required and agree that parks should be more challenging and larger.
ACT Government could build shade sail structures over existing playgrounds whilst planting deciduous trees. Once the trees are big enough, they can remove the shade sails.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 10:20 pm 08 Aug 18

I remember when Kambah adventure playground was by far the best park in Canberra. Sadly it’s a run down ghost of it’s former self. My guess is that it sees more drug deals then playing kids these days.

What’s the bet that like the two nearby Schools to Kambah Adventure playground, Schools that Mr Barr closed in the 2000s, he is running down the park so he claim that it’s not used anymore and then he can sell off the land for more housing developments.

Frank Batticciotto Frank Batticciotto 8:52 pm 08 Aug 18

Shade is really important that’s why I only go out at night time to. I like Playground Bar plenty of supervision there, large enough variety of alcoholic beverages to drink. Just the field of dreams really greatest playground in Canberra I say! Fun for all size and ages over 18🙂

Jodie Peden Jodie Peden 8:49 pm 08 Aug 18

Nicole Wellington is this a photo of one of your girls...maybe a while ago?

    Nicole Wellington Nicole Wellington 2:22 pm 09 Aug 18

    Sure is! When the arboretum first opened

Nicole Thomson Nicole Thomson 7:59 pm 08 Aug 18

Shade is really important - something that neither pod or boundless have in abundance - also convenient parking - we don’t go to boundless as there is not enough parking and when there is it is too far away if you are wrangling >1 child. Also, some playgrounds don’t have a large enough mix of things for smaller or bigger children, or they are so separate, it is difficult to adequately supervise two children of different ages who are forced to play in separate, somewhat distant areas.....

Courtney Matthew Courtney Matthew 7:21 pm 08 Aug 18

While I love big parks that keep my kids entertained for hours, I also think each child needs a quality small park within walking distance from their house.

Lynn N Ross Reynell Lynn N Ross Reynell 4:23 pm 08 Aug 18

Weston Park and the Kambah Adventure Playground were obviously ahead of their time - 30 years ago - they were both scaled back and offer very little challenge these days.

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