Summer is here!
No doubt everyone at home has a little touch of cabin fever. So now the sun is out, it’s time to get the kids into the backyard for some fresh air, to let off some steam, and just spend quality time outside rather than in!
The only catch – the backyard isn't quite up to scratch. You’ve been planning to build some play equipment out there so they can really enjoy themselves, but you haven’t got around to it.
We caught up with two industry insiders, Dan Nunan from Pollen Studio and Nick Schembri from EcoWood Plus, to share some insights before you start the backyard playground build.
Dan and his team were responsible for designing the incredible kids’ zone in Melbourne’s Edinburgh Gardens Southern Playground.
The area has become a super-hot-spot for little people throughout the City of Yarra, who flock to its inclusive play spaces to while away hours.
Indeed, many a tiny tot has been heard saying that they just don’t want to go back home…!
Above image, Dan Nunan, Studio Director of Pollen Studio and Registered Landscape Architect, AILA.
Pollen Studio undertook a playground design course with Play Australia and consulted local residents (including children) so as to better understand how the parks were used and what the community wanted to see and experience.
The result is steeped in ‘nature play’, an old concept that refers back to nature as an integral component of the design.
Nature play invites materials, plants and textures to take centre stage over more traditional playground features.
This is a departure from the more recent play areas so heavily sanitised by safety issues and potential litigation that the magic of adventure and fun has been lost.
Above image, natural textures in Edinburgh Gardens Southern Playground.
Above image, colour, movement and texture are all important elements that have resulted in such a welcoming design at Edinburgh Gardens Southern Playground.
Above image, bright colours coupled with natural elements, really work well together at the Edinburgh Gardens Southern Playground.
Big Kids and Little Kids Play
The playground caters for disparate age groups by creating a variety of different elements with zones for different age groups.
Although there is always ‘play crossover’, effort is made to keep passive play (e.g. sandpits, which tend to attract younger children who get ensconced in focussed activity) at length from active play (e.g. swings),
which is where older kids usually gravitate towards, moving quickly from one activity to the next.
Above image, play zones at Edinburgh Gardens Southern Playground.
Advice for Home Playgrounds
Dan is a big believer in backyard play areas providing kids with a stage for their most creative play.
A level of seclusion is always a big bonus in home play areas – by creating their very own lost garden, you give children a chance to enter another world of imagination; a special place just for them.
Dan recommends looking at other parks and playgrounds in your area and seeing what you like, what attracts your kids, and then adapting those ideas to your own space.
Dan’s overall advice? Go wild!
All public playgrounds need to be designed according to Australian safety standards which stipulate the height and spacing of play equipment so as to help minimise harm to children playing.
There is always a level of interpretation with the standards, so Nick and his team were really focused on creating adventurous designs with a level of common sense.
An extension of this is also the materials that are used to create playground equipment.
Once upon a time, it was alarmingly common for such spaces to be made from arsenic treated timber.
Get a splinter, and invariably you get a small dose of arsenic into the blood stream. The body does not reject this poison and over time, increased exposure could of course lead to increased levels of arsenic in the blood.
Arsenic treated timber is now banned from school playgrounds Australia-wide, but there is no such ban on households using the product.
EcoWood Plus provides non-toxic treated pine (Tanilith E), which is a combination of Copper (4 per cent) and naturally derived tannins, meaning little ones can climb all over the equipment without anyone worrying about their general health.
EcoWood Plus also have specialist background playground and cubbyhouse contractors should you want to hand the job over to someone else!
Above image, EcoWood Plus decking that can be used for playgrounds.
Above image, EcoWood Plaus fencing that can be used for backyard playgrounds.
Above image, structural timber from EcoWood Plus that can safely be used for playgrounds for children.