Friday Forum – What are the barriers to more imaginative playground design?

Thanks to everyone who has used the forum so far to ask a question, leave an answer, or post a playground!

Don’t think that you have to be an organization to list yourself as a ‘playground person’…if you read the blog then you’re a playground person.  One of the things that has happened as the blog has grown is that people get in touch with me asking about play organizations, or sites or providers, or just other interested people, in their geographic area.  Sometimes I can help, but not always.  The forum is word searchable, so if you add yourself as a playground person, say as ‘Elmo, interested in urban playspaces, New York City’, then anyone else seeking kindred playground spirits in New York City, or urban play, can connect.

When you write a blog for three years, the question that naturally arises is ‘Whew, how long am I going to do this?’  I’ve no idea WHEN I’ll stop (not anytime soon), but I do know WHY I want to stop…because innovative playgrounds have become so normal that there is no longer a need for a blog that highlights them.

Towards that goal, I hope the forum will be a place we can talk about how to get there.  So on Fridays, I’ll pose a question for discussion that I hope you’ll help me answer.    Why AREN’T imaginative playgrounds the norm?  What are the barriers to better play spaces?  See you in the forum.

11 Responses to “Friday Forum – What are the barriers to more imaginative playground design?”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Good point Lynn. Many playground decisions are as much about ‘easy’ as about ‘safe’. What do you think would help address these problems? A centralized supplier of natural components? Published standards for natural components?

    April 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

  2. Lynn Cadenhead said:

    Ease of maintenance is an issue where i live in New Zealand. Logs and natural components are hard to put into a maintenance programme and untidiness is not appreciated. Finding interesting natural components and drawing up site specific designs can also be both expensive and hard to cost. It is easier to just put in standard components.

    April 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm

  3. Robyn the Slug said:

    I think in my area it's mainly fear of litigation and local building codes. I know they were made in the interest of safety… but there is a trade-off when we make things too safe.
    At least here in Oregon we still have lots of original play equipment! Metal slides, swings, teeter-totters and even merry-go-rounds.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  4. Jay Beckwith said:

    Let's hear it for FEAR

    I'm afraid … afraid that I was partly responsible for the obsession we now have with safety. Back in the late 70's I started doing national tours campaigning for safer playgrounds. The focus was on better fall surfaces, getting rid of sharp edges, hot surfaces and places where kids could get trapped. All needed improvements.
    But now look at what we have!
    Kids often play up to the point of pain. If there is no chance for pain, they will find a way.
    We have become unable to make reasonable “cost/benefit” analysis when it comes to play. Parents may be when somebody else's kid gets hurt but its the end of the world when it happens to theirs.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:47 am

  5. landartista said:

    I agree with the previous posts. Most of my clients are concerned about liability, safety and risk. They want to be involved and like the ideas but when it comes to allocating money, finalizing design, and safety inspection things can fall apart out of fear.

    We need a stronger support group that is showing natural playgrounds are safe (and maybe even saying that they are in fact more beneficial to kids and safer then traditional playgrounds.) I need data that I can point to by a reputable source!

    I think creative playgrounds are getting more popular, but they are not the norm yet. Thanks for your blog and getting interested people together.


    March 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm

  6. Harriet said:

    I think Grant really summed it up.

    And – rules, regulations, red tape
    which again equals FEAR.

    I am a landscape designer, and every chance I get, I read your blogs. They inspire me!

    Thank you,
    Harriet White

    March 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

  7. Jamie and Julie said:

    why not yet?

    for all the reasons already noted, and perhaps because of the disconnect between the true stakeholders of the longterm project (kids, coaches, parents, neighbors) and the official stakeholders of the inception/funding/design/approval process (companies, banks, municipalities, lawyers).

    The latter may not remember how to play and how to design what would truly strike the right chords, and the former may not have a voice early enough or often enough in the process to advocate for a vision that deviates from the Mean.

    really appreciate this forum!

    March 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm

  8. Rubén said:

    Hello again friends of playscapes:

    I would like to send you the link of an architecture competition in Madrid (Spain) to create an urban playground, an urban toy, an action or intervention designed to make the street a different place to understand the public space and play with it.
    It´s a nice competition, and it´s open to all university / technical /design students in Europe.

    Greetings from Spain! 🙂

    March 27, 2011 at 11:46 am

  9. Grant said:

    Fear of accidents.
    Fear of litigation.
    Fear of our own shadows.

    90% is due to the press and bad statistics


    Take some risks, take criticism as we can't please all the people all the time, don't design by committee.

    Think like a child,not a frightened adult!

    Love your blog


    March 26, 2011 at 12:28 am

  10. Jay Beckwith said:

    The main barrier to better playgrounds is that most people, esp parents, think that it is their job to “provide” for their kids. So the bigger the slide, the brighter the colors, etc. the better. Right, just what our kids need; more simulation!

    What this social pressure leads to is playground as “entertainment” instead of “engagement”. “What does my kid get”, instead of “Look how long the kids are playing together.”

    A playground's quality is directly proportional to the number of choices presented to kids. Traditional play stuff had basically one right way to use it. Today's multi-functional play structures are somewhat better but are a far cry from the complexity that vibrant nature provides.

    This play-as-entertainment mindset empowers local government types and commercial suppliers to pander to the WOW and ignore what's really fun … “I wonder if …”

    This is an important point as we move along on this discussion … How do we keep focused on the kid's sense of wonder and not our adult need to control.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

  11. Matt said:

    I'm a playground person and appreciate the time you spend on this blog and the quality of it. Do you mind if I repost some of your material if we give you due credit?

    March 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

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