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Playgrounds... The impact upon a neighbourhood


James Settle

BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture Leeds Metropolitan University January 2011


Contents Introduction

................................ 4 - 5

Aims & Objectives

................................ 6 - 7

Chapter 1

Historical Context

................................ 8 - 17

Chapter 2

Value of Play

................................ 18 - 33

Case Study

................................ 34 - 35

Chapter 3

Values to a Neighbourhood ................................ 36 - 39 Chapter 4

Physical Design Elements

................................ 40 - 63


................................ 64 - 67

Case Studies

................................ 68 - 73


................................ 74 - 77 3


Explanation of words throughout. Parent = even through parent is used throughout this report, it includes parents, guardians or carers. Community – meaning the local residents within 1-2 miles of the playground.


Cast your mind back and try to remember where and how you used to play. Then try and remember how this made you feel. The value of children’s play is incredibly underestimated; it supports a child’s sense of wellbeing, social and emotional development, learning, health and independence but most importantly it is a fun and enjoyable part of life. All too often opportunities for play are being eroded. Physical distance, road traffic, negative adult attitudes, fear of bullying and uninspiring and unchallenging play spaces are all restrictions on play provision. This study will investigate the impact a playground can have upon a neighbourhood through exploring the fundamental reasons for and issues with play.


Aims & Objectives


This study will investigate the impact of play areas on a local neighbourhood, it will explore the ways in which playgrounds have developed over the years and how they have improved. It will also look into why playgrounds are important and what they can offer the local community. Through this it will be possible to find out if playgrounds can encourage a sense of community within a neighbourhood. Why do we play? Why do we need playgrounds? What are the potential problems to a child’s development by not having playgrounds? Can a playground affect the social relationships within a neighbourhood? Can a playground reduce anti social behaviour? What design aspects are required for a successful playground? In order to understand the impact of playgrounds on a neighbourhood, it is important to explore the history of play and how it affects children.


Chapter 1

Historical Context

Fig1.Baker, S 1989

8 8

Fig 2. Baker, S 1989

Fig3.Baker, S 1989

Children have always found ways in which to play, whether this be through running round in circles, playing in water, climbing trees or generally causing mayhem to their parents. (Frost,L.) A child’s wish and desire to play has always been present; it is a way of children socialising and creating friendships with each other. The industrial revolution was a big turning point in the approach to children’s recreation. This is because before the industrial revolution many families lived in small hamlets with free access to large green open spaces where children could play and be safe. The creation of mill towns meant that the amount of space that was given to the local community for recreational use was very limited, unfortunately this was because the owners of the mills that created these towns were more interested in the profits of the mills rather than the wellbeing of their employees and their families. However, children adapted to these changes and developed new ways in which they could play and still gain valuable inter- social skills, these included many street games such as top and whip, hopscotch, skipping and hoops and sticks. “let nature be your first teacher “ (St Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153)


Recognising the need for improvements Theodore Roosevelt stated: “City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children can not afford to pay carfare.�

(To Cuno H. Rudolph, Washington Playground Association, February 16, 1907.) Presidential Addresses and State Papers VI, 1163.


Progression As society progressed towards a more urban lifestyle, this caused the free space in which children had played before (including streets) to become rare or unsuitable for play, many of the mill towns had now developed in to larger towns and in some cases cities. This created demand for designated areas of play, there were formal park areas within green spaces but as yet no dedicated areas for play. The realisation of the need for playgrounds really began in the United States towards the end of the 1800’s with a national reform movement dedicated to women’s suffrage, the right for the women’s vote. This began as a result of industrialisation, urbanisation and immigration, eventually developing into the mothers’ and children’s movement, which was responsible for policies designed to protect children in work and to support schools and playgrounds. 1900’s

Open fields

Denser housing

Cities Introduction developed of the car

2000 High occupancy housing

This shows the decrease in green spaces and the increse in grey concrete as the towns and cities developed.

Fig 4. Settle, J 2011



It was in the 1920’s that the first formal playgrounds started to appear within the United States of America, over time this spread across the world. Germany was the leader of playgrounds throughout Europe, this has led to the “Germanisation” of some aspects of playground design even to this day, by which is meant the clinical style of these playgrounds, losing the initial concept of play that was adventure. The growth of playgrounds led to many of the popular sporting events we see today such as baseball, basketball and American football.

fig. 5 Symons, N (2011)


Margret Thatcher (Prime minister, UK 1975 – 1990) : “I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, talking to Women’s Own magazine, October 31 1987


Playgrounds in the UK were generally keeping up to date with the rest of the world up until the 70’s and 80’s when a global recession hit, this caused many cuts in public spending, so much so that in its height over 3,000,000 people were un-employed. This had a drastic effect on what was considered non-essential investments; this included parks and playgrounds. Due to the cut in funding, playgrounds were not maintained adequately and therefore soon fell into a state of disrepair. This was not helped by the Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, who was very much against the public sector and brought forward policies to privatise many government sectors. She believed in a commercial rather than a community approach as the quote shows.

Fig 6. LoDolce, A (2010)


“Play is the highest form of research” (Albert Einstein)

Traditional playgrounds consisting of fixed equipment (such as slides, swings, monkeybars) do not offer opportunities for children to play creatively (Walsh, 1993) and promote competition rather than cooperation (Barbour, 1999).

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world ...” (Albert Einstein 1929)


This attitude from the leader of the government, that there is no such thing as society, led to the deterioration in playgrounds and also the neighbourhoods that surrounded them, playgrounds soon became a place that was associated with crime. Due to the high rates of crime within these areas many children lost their right to play and hence develop. During the 90’s the playgrounds and parks within the United Kingdom deteriorated and many became completely unsuitable for play.

In 1997 when the Labour party came in to power, it was part of their manifesto that more money should be invested into the neighbourhoods and playgrounds, this was the same philosophy that Theodore Roosevelt believed in, that all children should have access to play within walking distance.


Chapter 2

Value of Play You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

Research on outdoor play has illustrated that outdoor environments can stimulate as much or even more social play compared to indoor environments (Hartle, 1996).


What we can take from chapter one is that it is incredibly important for children to have access to outside spaces, leaders from many different organisations and governments have agreed with this, but why is it so important? The next chapter shall explore the different benefits that play can have on a child’s development. These can be categorised as physical health, mental health, social skills and learning processes which are very important because they are fundamental building blocks for a child’s development.


“Health inequalities between the rich and poor can be halved with the help of green spaces” (Fields in Trust 2010)

“Play is the way the brain learns about the world. Play outdoors additionally impacts brain development in healthy ways”. From Braininsights

“Studies of animal and human behaviour show that play has a biological purpose, preparing the young for the future” (Fagen, 1995; Smith, 1982)


Physical Health Play activates the Proprioceptive system (Strength and Co-ordination) that involves making a child’s muscles and joints work hard to promote strength and co-ordination of muscles. This is also known to calm down a child who is agitated and aggressive. The best types of equipment to promote this are anything that includes climbing or intense cardiovascular activities. The decline in children’s play is having a direct impact on children’s health, the British Heart Foundation say a third of under sevens fail to reach the minimum recommended activity levels and by the age of fifteen two-thirds of girls are classified as inactive (quote) This is becoming a major problem, the children of this country are becoming ‘couch potatoes’. The British Medical Journal reported in 2001 that there is an obesity epidemic in young children and that the main solution to this is to reduce the amount of television that we watch and promote active play.(Edwards,K 2009)



Fig7. Rockingham, S (2010)

The vestibular system (inner ear) is a very important part of a child’s development and only becomes stimulated through play. Equipment that causes a child to move off their centre of gravity actually activates the core stabilisation muscles allowing the child to correct their balance. This is incredibly important as it improves the co-ordination of both eyes and optimises a child’s attention, which is very important for learning, it also allows them to realise what their limits are. Good examples of types of playground equipment that can do this are swings, roundabouts and spring rockers. Natural play examples are tree climbing and den making.

Fig 8. Rockingham, S (2010)

Fig 9. Rockingham, S (2010)


Fig 10.Rockingham, S (2010)

Fig 12. Rockingham, S


Fig 11. Rockingham, S (2010)

Fig. 13 (2008)

Mental Health Many Psychologically important developments occur through play such as creativity, without play a child’s development of creativity can be impaired. The current trend of relying on the Internet for their entertainment reduces the brain activity required to invent situations of their own accord. Play can introduce children to role play where a group of children can act out different roles in which they are interested, for example “cops and robbers” can give children the opportunity to be a policeman and arrest the robbers, this can be more stimulating than just playing “tag”. Children can also learn the deeper meaning of crime and that the police are there to catch the robbers. This can be an easy way of developing a child’s view of what is right and what is wrong. By using just play alone, parents and teachers are able to imprint some of the most important fundamental aspects of joining society. This is not a new concept as children have been given many types of games that have deep meanings, such as ‘ring a ring a roses’ which was about the ‘Black Death’ and the symptoms it produced. Other older playground games include musical chairs, which is another good example of a game with deep underlying meanings as it teaches children to follow commands in an enjoyable way and it can lead to good interaction with other children. 25

Evidence for this comes from the Mental Health Foundation. “Good play experiences can enhance children and young people’s mental health. In 1999, the Mental Health Foundation reported that the increasingly limited amount of time children have to play outside, or to attend supervised play projects was a causative factor in the rise of mental ill health in young people”

Brighter Futures Promoting Children and Young People’s Mental Health

“Play and unstructured time that allow for peer interactions are important components of social and emotional well-being. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact with the world around them.”

Play and Health: Making the links Play England 2008


Play allows children to use their creativity whilst at the same time developing their imagination and emotional strength, it is a world that they can control and manage themselves. Undirected play allows children the opportunity to work in groups to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts and to learn self advocacy skills (McElwain EL, Volling BL) Play within natural environments can provide restoration of attention spans for children, which is necessary for optimal brain productivity. Sitting in front of a two dimensional screen can actually limit the brain and can restrict the imagination, unfortunately technology can form everything for you rather than creating it yourself and this can affect a child’s impulse control making it very hard for children to pay attention or learn. (Small G, Vorgan G)

Fig 14. Rockingham, S (2010)


“There can be no question but that adventure is good for our children - it helps keep them fit, helps them learn and develops social skills and a sense of responsibility” (Judith Hackett, Chair HSE, 2007)

“The increase of adults’ presence and influence in children’s activity reduces the opportunity for children to make their own culture” (Laporta R and Ross J-P; London Play 2010)

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky” (Margaret McMillan, Nursery Education Pioneer 1914)


Social Skills The development of social skills allow children the chance to be themselves, they can learn their limits and what they are capable of, this is a very important part of growing up as it allows children to develop into more confident, independent persons. The rapid increase in video gaming and technology has meant that fictional characters rather than real life situations are constantly entertaining children. This reduces actual social contact between children and may lead to problems as the child starts to encounter real people because they have had this fictional life where they are the centre of attention all of the time. The situation is not helped by parent’s anxiety about children playing outside and the convenience of a child staying close to the house. It is far easier for a parent to check on a child that is just playing video games in the next room. The rate at which technology has entered the home is staggering and doesn’t allow parents or teachers time to analyse what children are actually doing. What has been know for many decades is that children thrive mentally and physically by being active and when movement is restricted, by allowing this technology to encroach on our lives to such an extent, it can disturb a child’s development. Social Skills are key to development as without social skills children can become lonely and this can ultimately lead the child to become depressed and be a victim of bullying.



Learning Process When play is allowed to be controlled by a child, they can practice decision making, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest and fully engage in hobbies and passions that they wish to pursue. Play generally involves parents in some way, which in itself is not a bad thing, but when a parent controls play, children acquiesce to the adults requests and concerns; this ultimately will lose some of the benefit of free spirited play. When parents engage with their children in child driven play, it gives the parents a unique opportunity to see the world from their child’s point of view as their play is in a world of their own creation and the child is able to navigate his or her way round. By parents being with a child when playing it can benefit the child as it allows the child to believe they are the centre of their parents attention and can help build enduring relationships.(Smith, D 1995)) Even less verbally able children are able to show and express their views and experiences through play, this is important as it allows parents the opportunity to gain an understanding of their lives and any possible problems that they may have, all in all play offers a good opportunity to engage fully with their children. It is obvious from this chapter that play is a very important part of growing up and developing but are there any limitations and barriers that could potentially stop play? 31

“51% of 7-12 year old children are not allowed to play out further than their street without an adult being there.�

ICM poll for Playday 2007


Limitations to Play Barriers that can occur through the fears and perceptions from adults must be one of the main problems restricting children’s play. Parents seem to have been swept up by a media frenzy of possible ‘what if?’ This sort of presumption by parents that their child will be run over by traffic, strangers will kidnap them or just generally injure themselves is completely over hyped. The benefits of play far outweigh the possible risks. It would be wrong to assume that every child is suffering because of the technological advances, some children excel under pressure and a highly driven schedule, in society we need young people to be well prepared to face a world which is very technologically dependant. We must also understand the advantages of increased exposure to technology and many children, especially those living within poverty, should receive more exposure to technology. However even children who could benefit from this much technology still need free time to develop creative growth, self reflection and gain the benefits of child driven play.


Case Study Thomas family who took part in a research project for ‘Natural England’ and ‘RoSPA

The value of play is underestimated and it is not being exploited to its full potential. The use of a case study will help to explain how important play is.’

51% aged 7-12 are not allowed to climb a tree without an adult present.

ICM poll for Playday 2008

1 in 5 children aged 7-12 have been stopped from play conkers because it is too dangerous

ICM poll for Playday 2008

35% of adults suggest traffic is the main barrier to neighbourhood play, followed by stranger danger/ paedophilles (32%) and parents/carers fears (22%)

ICM poll for Playday 2007 34

Back in 1926 George Thomas was eight years old and he walked everywhere, his parents could not afford tram tickets or a bike for him to use, this meant he regularly walked up to six miles without adult supervision to his favourite place, a fishing pond. Now if we look at George Thomas’ eight-year-old great grandson, Edward, this freedom has disappeared. He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place in which he can ride his bicycle and is not allowed to roam any further than 300 yards from his home. The lifestyles of these two people have changed in such a relatively short period of time to be poles apart. George Thomas lived in a tiny house which was crowded and therefore spent most of his childhood outside playing, later on in life he became a carpenter and some of the influences he picked up in childhood still remained, like his love for walking. Whilst Edward who is not allowed to roam does experience a lot of outdoor activities, going for skiing lessons, trampolining and using his climbing frame in his back garden, his mother is concerned that he may be missing out on vital social skills, “we do let him out to play in our Crescent but he doesn’t like to go out because no other children are even allowed to do that”. His mother is also buying into the media scare stories that obviously create an interesting story for the tabloids, but in reality it is just destroying any trust that lies within our local communities.


Chapter 3

Values to a Neighbourhood In this chapter we shall explore the various benefits of having a playground in a neighbourhood and the effects it can have. This includes social networks through to anti-social behaviour.


Social Networks Meeting points A playground can be a fundamental part of a neighbourhood and can become a local landmark that creates a meeting point for people. Children can meet at the playground to play and meet up with friends; parents also come along with their children and meet up with other parents. This helps create social networks between parents, children and the local residents of a neighbourhood. In today’s society it’s quite common that residents do not know each other well, but playgrounds assist in the promotion of social networks. In Taunton, parents fully supported a new playground in their area and this has resulted in them taking their children to the playground and meeting up with other parents with deck chairs, flasks and chocolate biscuits. This means that the parents have a relaxing time themselves whilst still being able to keep an eye on their children. This attitude can really improve the social connections within a neighbourhood. The development of friendships and bonds within a community can lead to formal community groups being formed. Such community groups can be a very powerful tool within neighbourhoods as it can generate power to the powerless, it allows informed key decision making in what happens within a local community. 37


Anti-social Behaviour It is important to note that playgrounds are not just aimed at small children they also attract teenagers who just want a place to hang out without their parents, in some cases this has lead to anti-social behaviour occurring. This sort of behaviour should be controlled by the introduction of a well-designed playground that includes places for teenagers to sit and chat with friends and also contains play equipment specially designed for them. By engaging with teenagers and not trying to label them as troublemakers, they will show much more respect for the surroundings that they are in. The risk of anti-social behaviour can be minimised by natural surveillance, which is one of the key elements in the design of a playground, and in the next chapter different design aspects shall be explored.


Chapter 4

Physical Design Elements In this chapter the importance of the physical components of a playground will be discussed A playgrounds role within a neighbourhood is to allow users a safe place in which to play, as we now know that play is very important for health and development. Without play children run the risk of missing out on vital learning processes needed for later life.

What is a playground there to achieve?


Geographical Location The location of a playground is one of the fundamental design decisions to enable a successful playground. It should be located within view of overlooking houses, roads and footpaths, this is known as natural surveillance. The reasons for this are quite sensible, a playground that is located out of sight of local residents could be susceptible to becoming a place of crime, if it is tucked away from view and surrounded by vegetation it is therefore unregulated and unsafe. At the other end of the scale, a playground that is located too near to residents housing can cause a nuisance to them, become very unpopular extremely quickly and therefore create tension within the neighbourhood. Natural surveillance of a play area is vital and is part of “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design�. It relies on the ability to influence possible offenders decisions and stop them from offending, this is done by giving the possible offender the perceived risk of being caught. Natural surveillance can limit the opportunity for crime to be committed by increasing the perception that you can be seen.


Fig. 15 Settle, J (2010)


Boundaries Boundaries are another relevant factor within playground design. Fencing can give the feeling of security and stop small children from wandering off and also keep dogs out assisting in keeping the playground free from dog faeces. However, for older children the above reasons are not as relevant and since fencing has no play value, can restrict children’s play within the overall environment and use up vital funding, fencing can rarely be justified except where protection is required from adjacent traffic. Another beneficial boundary that could be used is low level planting and trees which can offer the same effect as a fence but looks far nicer and can provide a habitat for wildlife. If using planting there must be adequate waste bins provided otherwise planting beds could become full of rubbish very quickly.


“There can be no question but that adventure is good for our children - it helps keep them fit, helps them learn and develops social skills and a sense of responsibility� (Judith Hackett, Chair HSE, 2007)


The design of playground can encourage people to feel confident and safe to be there. It is important that the playground is located within a suitable position thus creating natural surveillance. Different play environments can be created within these locations such as natural play. The ethos of natural play is that children should be able to play in natural environments that inspire and encourage healthy outdoor activities.


Fig. 16 Settle, J 2010

Fig. 17Settle, J (2010)


Traditional Play Many of us will be able to remember the playgrounds that we used to play on as a child, the typical roundabout, swing and slide. Maybe if you were lucky you would have a see-saw. Public playgrounds constructed as recently as 10 years ago were often a very cheap and quick solution to providing children with a place to play and many children would not use the playgrounds provided for them by Local Authorities because they were ‘boring’. Children would much prefer to go and play in the woods or even just kick a ball round a field than go to one of these playgrounds. However within the last 10 years there has been a new initiative by Government and Local Authorities that provided more natural play areas, which are more beneficial to children.


Fig. 18 Settle, J (2010)


Natural Play Natural play areas incorporate many natural materials such as wood and stone; they also incorporate trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers where possible. They are predominantly designed to incorporate natural elements, such as landforms, environmental art, boulders, dirt and sand. Using natural materials can give children a deeper respect for the natural environment and using this technique has the potential to fascinate children and educate them about the natural world whilst they play and have fun. The natural world around us can offer many unique opportunities for play, as has been discussed many of us now live in towns and cities which has considerably limited the natural environment in which older generations would have played. The introduction of natural play elements into a playground can help bring some of the natural world into these confined spaces. Some good elements to incorporate are mounding/landforms, it is amazing to see the imagination that children have when they are faced with different landforms. Children never seem to tire from running over them and around them in new games they have developed. Landforms create a different dimension to play by allowing the user to gain height and look out on their surroundings.


Fig. 19 Settle, J (2010)


Boulders and other rock structures can be an integral part of a natural playground because they have many different uses, the play value of a boulder doesn’t seem much to adults but children love them. They can both inspire and help children explore the adventurous and curious side of their character and when considering the health benefits of play, a boulder can offer scrambling, climbing and jumping off on to the ground which is an important part of engaging the vestibular system. Children are often ‘wrapped up in cotton wool’ and shielded from the real world. However children need to have the freedom in which to discover danger and assess it. Boulders are a good way of introducing children to this vital process. They are long lasting, hardwearing and naturally slip resistant which is important so as to not be too much of a danger to users. Other stone sculptures can include climbing towers, which are a more advanced version of boulders as it creates an actual climbing wall. These require much more thought during the design process before construction and are usually aimed at the older children. Because these towers are made from natural stone they require little or no maintenance, which can be an important consideration with play equipment.


Fig. 20 Settle, J (2010)


Bespoke Furniture The use of bespoke and innovative design features can make a play area more interesting and individual, creating a sense of ownership. Why do we use ordinary seats in play areas? We use plain seating in this country generally because it’s easy. The etiquette that is involved in seating is that you must sit up on a seat or bench. A person lying down on a bench is generally not socially acceptable but If a new concept for seating were to be introduced such as different sized blocks interlinked.(see diagram) it would be more socially acceptable to lounge and relax on them. Why can’t we incorporate seating into play equipment? The use of such new methods in seating could potentially become different methods of play, as we have discovered the vestibular system within children activates when children become unstable and off balance. The use of this style of seating can double up as a climbing frame/ climbing wall, thus saving money on buying expensive and inappropriate seating.



Areas to hold small events The inclusion of spaces within a playground suitable for small social gatherings or fund raising events can bring people together thus strengthening friendships and relationships within and between the local communities.

Fig. 21 Events 2008



Health and Safety Health and safety is there for a reason, it is there to protect us from possible risks that could potentially happen. (HSE 2011) When reading through papers and other publications there seems to be a lot of people complaining about the extent to which health and safety has encroached into our lives. Stories abound that ‘children are banned from playing conkers unless they wear goggles and that models can no longer be made from egg boxes as the risk of salmonella is too high. ( Health and safety rules can seem excessive to the point at which people can become annoyed. Many senior executives now believe that the application of health and safety has gone to far. One of the leading play safety experts in the United Kingdom has been reported as saying “Let your kids have fun; let them be challenged: let them explore and let them take risks” “years of concentrating solely on health and safety has led to the spread of ‘boring’ public play areas” (David Yearley, RoSPA). This is important as it re-iterates the need for fun and exciting play areas with an added element of risk. Health and Safety is there for a reason but allowing children to take controlled and managed risks will benefit them in the long term.


Settle, J (2010)


Consultation When a playground is proposed within a neighbourhood, it is critical that the public are given the chance to have their voices heard. A consultation actively seeks the opinions of the neighbourhood; it is a two-way flow of information, which will occur throughout the design process. By ensuring that the local neighbourhood gets involved with the consultation process it can improve the formulation of the design, the residents of the local area are the customers which are to benefit from the playground, so by ensuring that the community are in support and have had some direct impact on the design it means that it is more likely that the community will take ownership of it and ensure it is looked after.

Consultations should always be ‘community fed and architect led’ this is due to the public generally having no idea how the design process works. A good design should always take the influences of the public and use the information that has been gathered to produce a design that includes as many design aspects that the public wanted.


Fig. 22 Settle, J (2010)


Myth busting is another important part of the consultation process, when concerned members of the neighbourhood discuss possible issues that they might have with the design, a consultation is a good way to set peoples minds at rest. For example a resident could say “I don’t think wooden play equipment should be used, it could get burnt down.” In reality wooden play equipment is incredibly fire retardant. Involving the public as much as possible and getting them interested and excited about a new play area will inevitably lead to a more successful design.


Fig. 23 2020 Knowsley (2010)


Engaging the community Engaging the neighbourhood throughout the whole project from selecting the site, design processes, development stages and the on-going evolution of the playground will help to make it a success. This is because when a playground is designed and built it can bring together different parts of the neighbourhood to create friendships, voluntary management bodies or ‘friends of’ groups and other community partnerships. Engagement of residents within the local neighbourhood is the key to long-term sustainability of the playground and ensuring its continued success. Completion of a playground should be celebrated by hosting a community event, which can bring together the wider community. The sense of ownership of something new within a neighbourhood can lead to a change in the attitudes of the residents. Once friendships start to grow then the cohesion and social skills of a neighbourhood can develop and engender a sense of pride in the neighbourhood. Once these sorts of relationships start to develop, in most cases it appears that the rate of anti-social behaviour reduces. (see Halewood case study)



Fig. 24 2020 Knowsley 2010


Children play, children have always played. It is an important part of growing up.

Pre-industrial revolution outdoor play was only restricted by the child’s imagination and confidence. During the industrial revolution places for children to play became limited due to the lack of space provided, however children soon developed street games, where they could entertain themselves, be outside and learn social skills.

Philanthropists grew concerned with the lack of space provided for recreation and this led them towards providing designated areas for this purpose. This in turn led to the development of places for children to play.

Playgrounds are important as they provide a safe environment where children can play and learn vital social skills whilst having fun. For some children it is their first chance to meet and play with other children outside of their own families. The health benefits that come from play are not only physical but also provide psychological health benefits as well.

When playgrounds were first developed they were not much more than a swing and a roundabout, over time this can have a negative effect on a child as they are not stimulated by it and can become bored very easily. However playgrounds designed and built to today’s best practice standards are much more innovative and create many different play opportunities, such as role-play and den building. Many include natural play, which is important as it reconnects children with nature.


Fig. 25 2020 Knowsley (2010)


Playgrounds offer so much more than just a place for children to play. They can foster a good sense of community by bringing many of its members together and creating social networks between people who may never have otherwise met. All families are likely to use playgrounds giving their children an introduction into a rich diversity of lives, values and different cultures. Through desktop studies we have discovered the importance of play and how play can ultimately encourage community cohesion. Our forefather’s vision for every child to have access to play has generally been successful in this country despite the occasional period of underinvestment. The play pathfinder programme from the Labour Government has created a series of unique playgrounds that have had a positive effect on the local neighbourhoods that surround them. What now is a worry is that these incredible playgrounds will not be maintained adequately and could fall in to a state of disrepair, as happened in the last recession. Through communicating with various people within Knowsley Council and their design team 2020 Knowsley it is obvious that they feel that these projects have been a great success not only in bringing the local communities together but seeing the children smiling and having fun. What has been investigated in the Halewood case study is that there is also evidence suggesting that crime has dropped due to these playgrounds being introduced to the area. When crime drops within a neighbourhood it can only have a positive impact. If a neighbourhood is involved in the planning and construction of a playground they instantly feel their voices are heard and there opinions are valued, after all we are all experts at play. This then contributes to the local neighbourhood taking ownership of the site and help to deter vandalism and other crimes from occurring. A good example of this was that of a chainsaw carved owl, which had been commissioned for a playground within the Knowsley Borough, was stolen. When the community learnt of this, they were outraged and pulled together to retrieve the stolen owl by using local papers, their own investigations and community group meetings. This camaraderie led to the owl being returned and reinstated for the community to once again enjoy. Play is precious, it is a magical world where imaginations can run riot, days seem endless, the sun always shines, what better memories can this generation pass onto the next.


Case Study Copthorne Adventure Playground Kirkby, Knowsley, Merseyside

Fig 1. 2020 Knowsley (2009)


This was an existing playground in a very poor state but was valued by the local community because it had an existing play building, which was suitable for disabled children and was supervised. The play building is predominantly used by after school clubs and local community groups. It was designed in local conjunction with local children and is aimed at 5-13 year olds. The designers wanted to give the re-developed site a ‘Peter Pan’ theme with a shipwreck, pirates coves, den making facilities and an Indian camp including a ‘fire pit’ this was possible because the site is already fenced and supervised, fire play was considered a viable option and for the same reasons an extensive water play features. Community allotments were also included which allows the local community to use the area to grow their own plants. To increase the play value for children with disabilities it was very important that the site was made as accessible as possible, this included the use of many items of inclusive play equipment such as the water play feature, which is at a height, that is easily accessible for wheelchair users also the inclusion of a specially designed climbing frame that allows disabled persons full access and allows


Fig 26 Settle, J 2010

Fig. 27 Settle, J 2010


Fig. 28 Settle, J 2010

Fig. 29 Settle, J 2010


Case Study Halewood, Knowsley, Merseyside

Historical Comparison - Crime

The shows thethe historical comparison for crime figuresfigwhen Thechart chartabove above shows historic comparison for crime compared to the same period 2008/2009 ( highlighted in red ).(in Asred). the chart ures when compared to of the same period 2008/2009 As clearly shows each month has seen a major decrease in crime year on year. the chart clearly shows each month has seeen a major decrease

in crime year on year. 72

Five playground sites were developed in the township of Halewood and were completed in March 2009. Reports from the Safer Knowsley Partnership Analytical Team stated that in November 2009 their findings indicated a 22% drop in crime from April 2009 to October 2009 compared to the previous year. These five new playgrounds were the most significant change in the local area and it is believed by many members of the community that the playgrounds have played a major part in this success.

Fig. 30 Settle, J 2010


References Books Berne, Suzanne. A Crime in the Neighborhood. Harmondsworth Eng.: Penguin, 1998. Brock, Avril Perspectives on Play. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2008. Cohn DA. Child-mother attachment of six-year-olds and social competence at school. Child Dev. 1990;61:152–162 Edwards KL, Clarke GP, Ransley JK, Cade J. Erickson RJ. Play contributes to the full emotional development of the child. Education. 1985;105 :261 –263 Henry M. More than just play: the significance of mutually directed adult, child activity. Early Child Dev Care. 1990;60: 35–51 Hurwitz SC. To be successful: let them play! Child Educ. 2002/2003;79 :101 –102 J Epidemiol Community Health. 2010 Mar;64(3):194-201. Epub 2009 Aug 24. Joe L. Frost, 2009. A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments: Toward a Contemporary Child-Saving Movement. 1 Edition. Routledge. McElwain EL, Volling BL. Preschool children’s interactions with friends and older siblings: relationship specificity and joint contributions to problem behaviors. J Fam Psychol. 2005;19 :486 –496 Moyles, Janet. The Excellence of Play / Janet Moyles. Open University Press: [“Open University Press”], 2005. Pellegrini AD, Smith PK. The development of play during childhood: forms and possible functions. Child Psychol Psychiatry Rev. 1998;3 :51 –57 Smith D. How play influences children’s development at home and school. J Phys Educ Recreation Dance. 1995;66:19–23

Tsao L. How much do we know about the importance of play in child development? Child Educ. 2002;78:230–233


Images Fig 1. Shirley Baker (1987). Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford . Photogragh. At: Manchester: Bloodaxe books, -. Hopscotch Fig 2. Shirley Baker (1987). Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford . Photogragh. At: Manchester: Bloodaxe books, -. Ring a roses Fig 3. Shirley Baker (1987). Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford . Photogragh. At: Manchester: Bloodaxe books, -. May pole. Fig 4. Time Line. Authors own work (2011) Fig 5. Symons, N, Boring Playground (2011) Fig 6. Ann LoDolce (2010). Sad Child [online]. [Accessed 25-01-2011]. Available from: <http://www.lodolcefamilylaw. com/welcome>. Fig 7. Wickstead (2010). Balance [online]. [Accessed 25-01-2011]. Available from: <>. Fig 8. Ann LoDolce (2010). Rocker [online]. [Accessed 25-01-2011]. Available from: < welcome>. Fig 9. Ann LoDolce (2010). Swing [online]. [Accessed 25-01-2011]. Available from: < welcome>. Fig 10. Sheila Rockingham (2010). Picnic [online]. [Accessed 20-01-2011]. Fig 11. Sheila Rockingham (2010). Race Cars [online]. [Accessed 20-01-2011]. Fig 12. Sheila Rockingham (2010). Happy Kids [online]. [Accessed 20-01-2011]. Fig 13. Smiling Children (2008) [online]. [Accessed 20-01-2011]. Fig 14. Sheila Rockingham (2010). Tree climbing [online]. [Accessed 20-01-2011]. Fig 15. Authors own work (2010) Henley Park, Knowsley


References Continued Images Fig 16. Authors own work (2010) Ainsdale Pinfold lane, Southport Fig 17. Authors own work (2010) Hall Lane Park, Knowsley Fig 18. Authors own work (2010) Halewood Park, Knowsley Fig 19. Authors own work (2010) Alt Park, Knowsley Fig 20. Authors own work (2010) Calsberg Site, Copenhagen Fig 21. White, S (2008) Outdoor Events [Online].[Accessed 23-01-11] Available from < Fig 21a Authors own work (2010) Lickers Lane, Knowsley Fig 22. Authors own work (2010) Eaton Street, Knowsley Fig 23. 2020 Knowsley (2008) Consultation Open Day Fig 24. 2020 Knowsley (2009) Opening day, Henley Park, Knowsley Fig 25. Authors own work (2010) The Stolen Owl, Halewood Park, Knowsley Fig 26. Authors own work (2010) Copthorne Adventure Playground - Shipwreck Fig 27. Authors own work (2010) Copthorne Adventure Playground - Slide Fig 28. Authors own work (2010) Copthorne Adventure Playground - Waterplay Fig 29. Authors own work (2010) Copthorne Adventure Playground - Bridge Fig 30. Authors own work (2010) Halewood Park, Knowsley


Acknowledgements Porter, M (2010). Interview with James Settle. 10-12-10. 9 West Street, Prescot, Liverpool. Landscape Architect

Towers, J (2010). Interview with James Settle. 10-12-10. 9 West Street, Prescot, Liverpool. Landscape Architect

Richardson, J (2010). Interview with James Settle. 10-12-10. 9 West Street Prescot, Liverpool. Landscape Architect

Wilson, D (2010). Interview with James Settle. 09-12-10. KMBC, Huyton, Liverpool. Play Pathfinder Project Officer

Mather, F (2010). Interview with James Settle. 09-12-10. KMBC, Huyton, Liverpool. Greenspace Development Manager

Settle , C (2010). Interview with James Settle. 12-01-11. Southport


Playgrounds, The impact upon a neighbourhood  
Playgrounds, The impact upon a neighbourhood  

My critical study whilst studying at Leeds Metropolitan University, it explores if having a playground located within a neighbourhood can im...