In the Blueprint for Play series, we explore how to help ensure your play and recreation space is a valuable resource to the community from planning to programming. Part of this success is being thoughtful in the planning stage about how it can be used because the way the community engages with the space says a lot about its overall value. When thinking about usage, be sure to discuss your ideas with your playground vendor to see if he/she has additional resources and tools to help implement them. Here are some ideas to consider.
Family Parties & Events
A play space is a wonderful resource for holding parties and family gatherings. To help ensure it is a comfortable place for this type of event, think about how families will want to engage with the space beyond the play area. Tables and benches grouped for gathering will be an important consideration. Providing shade to increase comfort should be a consideration when creating spaces to gather. Offering options for food service may also be necessary if the space is intended for family events and picnics, so shelters with tables grouped underneath, strategically located grills, and receptacles for trash disposal should be considered. Be thoughtful about designing for intergenerational and inclusive play so that everyone can comfortably access and actively use the space. You may also want to consider adding an outdoor fitness area with sight of the playground, so that parents have active options to pursue while their children play. Finally, planning should always include proximity to parking and restrooms for maximum comfort and usability.
Programming & Learning
Playgrounds can be the perfect location to provide a variety of programs for the community. Camps, before/after school activities, school field trips, and outings planned through organizations such as scouts, 4-H, and other clubs can help people utilize the outdoors, be physically active, and interact socially with their peers. Well designed playgrounds can greatly enhance programming efforts, while offering new and exciting opportunities using their new community resource!
There are many considerations that can help bring meaningful learning to children during your programming initiatives. By creating naturalized playgrounds to engage children with nature, utilizing the playground to promote physical activity and fitness, and/or intentionally bringing academic concepts like math, science, social studies, creative arts, and language outdoors can dramatically impact how the community utilizes the space.
Community Specific Activities
Are there specific activities that your community would like to offer that currently have no space for consideration? Be sure to involve the community to determine additional opportunities for activity at the play and recreation space, and be thoughtful about getting their input on what would be required for this activity to be successful. The more the community feels involved in the outcomes of the space, the more likely they will be to use and engage with it.
Thinking strategically through the planning phase will give you a foundation to move forward and pursue the rest of the steps needed to make your play and recreation space a reality.
Management, Maintenance & Supervision
It will be the responsibility of the playground owner to develop a sound management plan that addresses the broad, long-term sustainability strategy for the space. In the planning phase, be thoughtful about this aspect, and involve the site owner in gathering input and ultimately making the decisions that will affect this plan. A robust management plan will include regular maintenance inspections, risk management strategies, expenses related to upkeep, and developing a response strategy to potential issues, among other considerations. This plan will be crucial in the protection of the investment you are making.
Remember to ask your playground vendor what tools and resources he/she can provide to assist in developing the plans needed for sustainability. The resources and information in the Blueprint for Play books will provide additional information to help in the planning and execution of management, maintenance, and supervision.