Designing a playground to encourage adventurous play

20030308_st_1892A Gerringong woman has been choose to design a large dedicated natural play space, the first of its kind at a NSW Sport & Recreation centre, at Berry.

The Nature Playground will allow visiting children to explore and play in a natural setting without the aid of traditional off-the-shelf playground equipment or ‘soft fall’ surfacing.

The Nature Playground is the concept of Berry Sport & Rec’s project manager, Art Lidbetter, who has spent many years considering the best elements that enable kids to have inspiring, challenging and adventurous playtimes.

Annette Pust Design’s Master Plan was chosen through a competitive tender process that valued her experience in designing preschools and their envir-onments and her European perspective.

Annette believes strongly in the importance of risk taking in play.

“The freedom associated with outdoor space can not be replicated inside. I spent most my life in Germany and grew up with playgrounds that are much more adventurous and risky. I am passionate about bringing this concept to Australia.

“Giving children the opportunity to take risks and get dirty is beneficial for their development. Recent studies prove that unstructured outside play has positive effects on children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.”

The Stage 1 works to be constructed this year will enhance the existing creek to create a watercourse with boulders and bridges for children to explore and play.  This stage is aimed at the 6-12 age group of the children who generally attend the Rec Camp.

The entire plan, to be implemented over the next few years, will include features aimed at aimed for everyone from toddlers to adults.

When finished the play space will provide an area where children are free to explore, play with water and sometimes mud, scramble over rocks, boulders and tree trunks and build shelters – perhaps mini houses as part of imaginative play or even large dens as a group with friends.

The 20,000 sqm site is currently a grassy paddock. It will be transformed with different habitats and landscaping to provide varied experiences and challenges for the kids while also producing valuable habitat for native flora and fauna.

Another Gerringong local, artist and trained Forest School Practitioner Penny Sadubin, is working as the landscaping consultant for Annette on the project.

“We can’t take it for granted that, because we have a great climate and an outdoor culture, our children are able to connect meaningfully with the natural world and have access to those kind of open-ended play experiences that most adults are nostalgic about today.”

Both women love exploring the natural environment with their young families, providing a wealth of personal experience to draw on.

The Centre is a popular venue for school camps, conferences and events. It has a record for choosing innovative design, with its sports hall winning a World Architecture Festival Award.



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