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Play Space Design


Design for Play: a guide to creating successful play spaces

Design for Play, written by a Free Play Network team consisting of Aileen Shackell, Nicola Butler, Phil Doyle and David Ball sets out 10 Design Principles to illustrate elements of play space design. Published by Play England and the Department for Children, Families and Schools, a summary is available on the Free Play Network website or full text is available free from Play England.

Managing Risk in Play Provision

The partner publication to Design for Play is Managing Risk in Play Provision: implementation guide, David Ball, Tim Gill, Bernard Spiegal, published by Play England.

Implementing Play Design Principles Workshops and Study Tours

The Free Play Network organises workshops and study tours on key aspects of play space design.

Waterlow Park, Camden
Frampton Park Estate, Hackney
Highgate New Town, Camden

Issues covered include:

  • designing for inclusive play;
  • risk and play;
  • effectie community engagement - working with residents and tackling NIMBYs;
  • solutions for dealing with dogs, unfenced sites and loose fill surfacing;
  • how to design play spaces where children can play out unaccompanied in natural environments;
  • how to create an effective play space on a small budget
  • and all aspects of designing for play.

The emphasis of the day will be on practicalities - how problems have been tackled and design solutions found.

For more information contact Nicola Butler, nbutler at freeplaynetwork.org.uk

Inclusive Play

All children have a right to play. Disabled children and young people often have less access to quality play opportunities, in particular opportunities to play in shared public spaces along with their friends and siblings.

Design for Inclusive Play

The Free Play Network can advise on designing inclusive play spaces in parks, public spaces and schools. Call us on 07790 981 175.

Choosing Equipment

Play space designers often try to choose a couple of token items of specialist "accessible" equipment in an attempt to provide inclusive play. However, specialist equipment can be quite dull and can lead to disabled children effectively being segregated - restricted to the part of the playground where the special equipment is located.

Try to choose equipment that can be used flexibly by children of different ages and abilities. Avoid specialist play equipment if it is uninspiring and dull.

Equipment that can be used by more than one person at once can often be used by a child together with friends or carers, and is more exciting and sociable for all. For example basket swings can be used by more than one child and can be used by a child in different ways, unlike traditional swings or rope swings. Wider slides are more flexible than older narrow slides. Similarly items such as rotating discs can be used by children with a range of different abilities.

Basket swing

Make sure that equipment provides an element of risk and challenge. If there is no element of challenge, children will very quickly become bored and seek risks elsewhere.

"Children with disabilities have an equal if not greater need for opportunities to take risks, since they may be denied the freedom of choice enjoyed by their non-disabled peers."
Managing Risk in Play Provision, Play Safety Forum statement
Boy in Tree

Free Play Network, 129 Lancaster Road, New Barnet, Hertfordshire, EN4 8AJ. Tel 07790 981 175.