Adventure Play
Stimulating play...



What is an adventure playground?

Adventure playgrounds are, by their nature, distinct and particular to their location and their users. Each should evolve with community and children's participation, as a space that children ‘own' and are empowered to shape and develop. An adventure playground can be described as a space dedicated solely to children's play, where skilled playworkers enable and facilitate the ownership, development and design of that space - physically, socially and culturally - by the children playing there. Nevertheless, there are some important principles and essential elements that good adventure playgrounds have in common.

---->Sandpit and Boulders

The adventure playground should aim to provide the widest possible range of opportunities for children's play, including:

  • Spontaneous free expression of children's drive to play.
  • Engagement in the full range of play types as chosen by children.
  • Exploration of physical, social, emotional, imaginary and sensory spaces.
  • Free flow in giving and responding to ‘play cues' to ensure children can determine the content and intent of their play.
  • Creating a shared flexible space that children feel has a sense of ‘magic'.
  • A rich and evolving indoor and outdoor play environment, where children can play all year round and in all weathers.
  • The active involvement of children and young people in creating and modifying the play space, within a varied landscape.
  • The playground is at the heart of the community. 

Other essential elements, often shared with other forms of play provision are:

  • The playground is staffed by skilled and appropriately qualified playworkers working to the Playwork Principles.
  • It is designed to be accessible to all children, and is based on inclusive practice so that disabled, non-disabled children and children from minority communities are welcomed and enabled to play together.
  • Entry to the playground is free of charge, children are free to come and go and free to choose how they spend their time when there.
  • Risk management is based on the principle of risk-benefit assessment, balancing the potential for harm against the benefits children gain from challenging themselves in their play.

Taken from: Play England (2009). Practice Briefing 1 - Developing an adventure playground: the essential elements.

History of Adventure Playgrounds

The origins of adventure playgrounds are normally attributed to the work of a Danish landscape architect at the end of the 1940s. Children were playing on a building site when the contractors were not there. He noticed that the children were building dens and creatively playing with building materials so he set aside some space well supplied with sand, water, timber, paint and some basic tools. The children clearly shared the architect's interest in construction, experimentation, his tactile awareness and imagination.

Post war Britain had plenty of bombsites and slum clearance that made for plenty of space for adventure playgrounds and they were established in hundreds of locations. Children, helped by play workers, created their own play environments including ‘play structures'.

One result of those early adventure playgrounds is the way the ideas have affected how play equipment in parks and housing estates is now designed. Many of the children's and play workers' ideas have filtered through to the design of fixed, manufactured playgrounds, creating more child friendly, colourful, stimulating equipment, an increased use of timber and more opportunity to climb and invent new ways to play.

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