Playing can be serious fun
NOTHING burns up healthy kilojoules like a kid tearing about playing – running, jumping, climbing – but so often today we find our youngsters kidnapped and stolen away into cyber-space.
A disturbing range of problems are emerging as a result: kids who are overweight, lacking in physical co-ordination and skills, kids who are withdrawn, poor communicators, depressed… the list goes on.
The lure of iPads, online games,Xboxes and other consoles, mobile phones and computers can be quite detrimental to the healthy physical and mental development of young people.
I think we need to get kids outside more often. And outside doing positive things, like playing, getting a bit dirty, taking a few risks, honing their physical abilities and playing with other kids in real space and real time.
Playing is a great teacher. It provides experience and that certain amount of risk that helps develop skills and strength. It imbues and appreciation of a healthy lifestyle, it encourages curiosity, and it teaches important social skills.
Last Sunday, I saw 600 kids and mums and dads enjoy the opening of Villawood Properties’ new $2.6 million district park at Armstrong Mount Duneed.
The park is a fantastic facility. It has swings and tunnels, flying foxes, intuitive play areas, tactile and sensory adventure activities, a basketball halfcourt, a safe-skate area and table tennis.
It is in a great location, too, surrounded by magnificent redgums and right beside Club Armstrong, where parents can sit back and relax while keeping an eye over their young charges as they play.
It’s not our first playground rodeo. We’ve built iconic playgrounds elsewhere, such as Alamanda Point Cook, where our pirate ship and massive slide attract visitors from all over Western Melbourne.
The best part of all of them is that kids are burning energy instead of sitting about vegetating.
If Sunday’s opening is any indication – and also a road test we did with Lutheran College students a few days earlier – the park is going to be very popular.
All those youngsters I saw on Sunday climbing and running, and swinging and twisting and crawling through the park made it pretty clear to me kids still love playgrounds.
This is great to know because I think they really need to better understand and appreciate the environment around them, and its beauty and its nature. And playgrounds can help do just that.
The challenge now is for landscape designers and other developers to make their playgrounds as interesting as possible, including with that element of risk, and for parents to make sure their kids get outside and use them.