Has the way children play evolved and does the landscape need to change with it? The topic of play is hugely complex and relates to so much more than the simplicity of a small child engaging in a recreational past time just for fun. In today’s high pressured world we always seek out the measured benefits of our activities and have lost sight of the wider topic of wellbeing; until the global pandemic hit.
Pre 2020 there was already rising concern for our children spending too much time indoors, in particular glued to a screen. This was exacerbated during the first lockdown, where families were confined to their homes and more reliant on the virtual world for learning and entertainment.
The public realm in terms of green and urban space is now working harder for us than ever before. The pandemic reconnected so many people to the outside world, with every tiny pocket of space being utilised and new ways of exercising outdoors found. But it also highlighted huge inequalities in greenspace provision which came to the fore in “England’s green space gap” report by Friends of the Earth, the first comprehensive England-wide analysis to show the correlation between green space deprivation, income and race. So how can we provide a more balanced approach to play and recreation for all children and young people, particularly where space, green or otherwise is a premium? How do we minimise the isolated lives of so many by making play spaces a destination in the heart of the community that appeals to all?
Jupiter Play presented a range of webinars that reflects on a number of issues that impact the play and landscape sector and more importantly the communities we as industries serve. We look at the world of technology and gaming and why it is such an engaging form of play. If we can understand how to capture that level of engagement and apply it to our open spaces, how much can we positively impact the wellbeing of our children, and not only our children but our entire communities? Projects such as the POD Squad in Withernsea and the first interactive in London – Bollo Brook, will explore how using technology and interactive play create high levels of engagement in activity and play. But this subject matter shouldn’t be taken in isolation, the world of technology and natural play should be complimentary.
In the webinar Inclusive Play and Natural Environments the absolute need for children to connect to the environment at a playful level is investigated. Children today have gone through some of the most challenging times in their childhood. We must take this opportunity to learn from this and move beyond idealistic and nostalgic notions of play and play space design to create places for children and young people to feel they have a place in the heart of their community.