What makes a good playground?


When we first began the effort to renovate Col. Connelly Park, we decided that we needed a new and improved playground. Since we have no Scholars of the Recreational Arts on staff, we had to work it out ourselves. Through a mixed sampling of manufacturer catalogs, playground surveys, and a bit of nerdy excess, we came up with some ideas and brought them to the table.

Children across America somehow instantly recognize the thrill and joy of the classic Slide and Swing elements. Why is that? It turns out that playgrounds often have common themes and activities. Parks with the most appeal seem to have an especially enriching experience: one that incorporates both attractive play elements, as well as those boring non-play elements that are so easy to forget.

Fundamentally, we had to address what “service” the playground really provides to such “clients” as children and parents. Our analysis indicated that playgrounds provides a few fundamental things:

  • A “safe zone” for children and families
  • Experiences not available in the household
  • Places and activities that stimulate playful instincts
  • A neighborhood/town/regional destination
  • A good signal of community investment

We selected a mix of options that we feel hits the right mix of fun stuff versus the boring stuff. The installation went in during the summer of 2010 and the playground has been thrumming since.

What would you like in a playground? Do you think we got it right? Stop by and try it for yourself, or if not you than maybe littler versions of yourself. Let us know what you think in the comments.