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Messy Play!Playtime Latest

29/10/2007 – Messy Play!

Sand and water, the tools of messy play, are a rare enough find in Irish Playgrounds. Such a pity considering the amount of pleasure children derive from them. On a recent inter-railing trip through Europe with our children we came across many wonderful playgrounds with both sand and water. The big, swanky playground in Paris Jardin de Luxembourg charged a fee in of €2.50 per adult and €1.90 per child. But for that you got hours and hours of utterly absorbing play. A large sand pit with a small climbing house to one side and a toy car in its centre where children drove off across the desert. The climbing house had big shovels and pullies with buckets attached. Lots of filling, pouring,  tugging and letting the whole thing drop down again with a whoosh and a big happy squeal. Charging children to play isn’t ideal, but for your money you got well-kept toilets, plenty of adult seating and a water fountain for washing hands, feat and faces. This playground came with the added pleasure of trees growing in its midst, and the golden glow of early Autumn sunlight filtering through the slowly bronzing leaves was quite enchanting.

At the other end of the scale a small,free playground in the middle of the city centre in Vienna offered lots of messy play. In a tiny park surrounded by tram lines and busy roads, this playground had a lovely little sand pit and a water pump which splashed the water down a slippy rock and into the sand. Children were absorbed in complex play which involved pumping, splashing, digging and tunnelling.

Kissing gates close neatly after the children to prevent dogs coming in and pooing all over the sand. Although the kids do get quite dirty and even wet, parents tend to come prepared with wellies, raincoats or even a change of clothes. Sticks, stones and leaves picked up from the ground make useful digging devices and double up as cars, houses and people.

While most Irish local authorities have come on impressively in terms of playground provision, perhaps the next step is a bit more imagination with regard to design and facilities. A sand pit, and perhaps even the occasional children’s fountain, would really lend a bit of magic to the playgrounds springing up out there.