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Outdoor Play

Photo of a child's feet running across grassPlaying outside is wonderful for children. They get exercise, they make friends, learn to take turns, to share, to participate, to listen and, of course, they challenge themselves physically. Children can play all sorts of creative and imaginary games outdoors and through these games they explore the world around them.

Safety

Above all, children need to be safe to play outside.  It is unusual to see children playing out on the street these days because of heavy volumes of traffic. If it was safer children would happily play on their way to school, or they would play ball or hopscotch on the street outside their homes and a local playground would serve as an additional outdoors choice.  Under the National Play Policy there is a proposal to develop Home Zones. These are residential areas set up in some European countries where traffic travels at less than 15k per hour.  There may be play facilities or seating in place. In Ireland greater consideration will have to be paid to traffic calming in residential areas so children can go outside and play. Playing outside is good for children as it is fun and they love it.

Play Equipment

Illustration of a bouncing ballPlay equipment has its uses, particularly if it can be utilised in a variety of ways. Children may get bored with the slide or the see saw after a short while. But if we allow them they will invent new games with the same equipment such as creating a shop under the slide or a pirate ship on top of it. If the equipment is too limited and there are too many rules about how to play in a playground, often or not the same playground is empty even on the sunniest summers day.

What Children Want

Which is why it is so important to consult with children before building a playground.  They don’t necessarily need commercial play equipment to do this, but they do need a safe outdoor environment which gives them a variety of choices. Children love to play outside with play equipment designed by nature; trees, hills, bushes and hedges, mud, water and sand.  Some very innovative playgrounds in Ireland are designed with this in mind and the idea of landscaping for play is beginning to emerge.