As an advocate of play and all of its positive attributes it is really quite fitting that I live very close to a playground equipment manufacturer. In fact every time I drive towards the main road I can see the yellow sign for Playdale Playgrounds Ltd smiling at me.  The playground next to the school has been stocked by Playdale and most of the school playground equipment has been purchased from Playdale.

Nine Generations Of Croasdales

The evolution of Playdale from Barrel makers to playground equipment manufacturers demonstrates how a family business can survive the test of time.  Since the 1800’s there has been a member of the Croasdale family manufacturing goods in Haverthwaite in Cumbria.  From 1770 to 1978 the Croasdale family have done the following trades; cooper, hooper, woodmonger & farmer, woodmonger, timber merchant and playground equipment manufacturer.  In 1978 the concept of Playdale Playgrounds Ltd was born.

Timber Playground Equipment


Source: Playdale Playgrounds Ltd

John Croasdale was inspired to make playground equipment when he decided to replace the old equipment in the leven Valley Playing Fields.  He looked at a playground equipment brochure and noticed that it was all made from timber and they could make a lot of the equipment themselves. The playground equipment at the Leven Valley Playing Fields has been updated yet again and the fundraising required to purchase it united the local community.

From Classic Adventure Trail To i.Play


Source: Playdale Playgrounds Ltd

The very first piece of playground equipment was the classic adventure trail which made use of the natural timber logs.  By 1983 the Croasdale’s moved their business on and concentrated on building playground equipment.  Playdale Playgrounds went from strength to strength and in the 30 years of trading have diversified into building; steel equipment, play towers, slides, outdoor classrooms, play panels and much more.  They also combined technology with playground equipment by developing i.Play  which is a fascinating combination of computer technology and playground equipment.

From Haverthwaite To The Rest Of The World


Source: Playdale Playgrounds Ltd

Playdale Playground equipment can be found all over the world and they have installed playgrounds in 22 countries all over the world.  In 2014 they won an award for their export success at the Insider’s North West International Trade Awards.  They also participated in the, Exporting Is Great’, national campaign featured in the Financial Times and the Spectator. This year 2015 they opened their global distribution centre.

It is exciting watching this fantastic business grow and grow particularly as they are helping to ensure that children are able to play safely all over the world.


Daily Mail

Natural play equipment has become a necessary feature in playgrounds to create a more natural setting.  As wasteland and fields are being consumed by housing estates,  opportunities for children to participate in natural play has significantly decreased.   Local playgrounds have never been more important than they are today, simply because they are much safer places to play.  Natural play equipment gives children the opportunity to go, ‘off piste’, and create imaginative games based on the landscape of the playground.

Changes In Play Places

An extensive study by Nature England into the changing play behaviour between generations, found that children do not enjoy the same freedom their parents and grand parents enjoyed.  ‘The favourite places to play have changed over time. In the past these were in the streets, near home (29%), indoors (16%) and in some natural places (15%) whereas nowadays children like playing indoors best (41%) and, to a lesser extent, in the garden (17%)’. (Nature England)

Unsupervised Play

Children do not participate in unsupervised play like their ancestors this could be due to; increase in traffic, the use of technology, decrease in natural places to play and over protective parenting.  Gone are the days that children would go out all day and return when their tummy rumbled at tea time.  It is probably unfair to include over protective parenting because 85% of the parents questioned in the Nature England study did want their children to have more freedom.

Natural Landscaping

Playgrounds today are quite different to playgrounds in the past because they have been designed with the importance of play in mind.  Many playground equipment companies started off in either the wood industry like Playdale Playgrounds Ltd or the family entertainment industry like Charles Wicksteed. Often children’s playgrounds were stark places with only the traditional swings, slide and roundabout to play on. These days playgrounds are landscaped and have natural play equipment to increase the play value of the space available.

Natural Play Equipment

Natural play equipment is essentially naturally occurring objects such as; stones, plants, tunnels and mounds that have been made safe for children to play on.  Children benefit from such additions to the playground because they can let their imagination run wild and explore nature first hand.  Children are fascinated by natural shapes and the opportunity to sit on huge smooth stones is too great to miss.

Really the ideal playground would be a safe environment for children to play in with a coffee shop for parents to meet up and keep a watchful eye on their children.



I have most of my deep and meaningful conversations with my son in the confides of our yellow car.  The rest of the time our conversations are pretty mundane and ordinary.  On the way to my parent’s house Alistair explained to me that when people died their soul went into new babies and everyone goes to Heaven even if they were naughty.  When asked about how this sharing of souls is affected by a population increase he responded by saying that new souls were made.  This was an explanation as to why some people seemed to understand life quicker than others – their soul was older and more experienced.  My son does go to a church school so some of his theories may have evolved during shared worship.  However when I have taught in non denominational schools, children still have a fascination about the creation of the earth.

According to Alistair without a doubt God or some other godly entity exists who created everything – this of course leaves one question remaining – Who made God and who made the person who made God and so on … ? Maybe this interstellar insight is the reason why elderly people flock around newborn babies as if they are the Ark of the Covenant.  They all want a little piece of Heaven – of course by the time your baby is a screaming toddler who will not get up off the floor they scuttle past with stealth.  For children a belief in an omniscient one is simple, while being an adult your thoughts are tainted by everything negative related to religion.

At the moment religion seems to be causing more problems than it is solving because people are doing awful things in the name of their god.  If the Almighty is displeased why can’t he/she/it be left to vent his/her/their own wrath on the world.  The Christian Church is heading towards its most famous celebration in the whole of its calender – we do have to remember that many toddlers were sacrificed to enable one child to have safe passage.  Poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge tended to acknowledge that the countryside and all of its wonder were proof enough of a higher entity.

I read an article called, ‘How Sand And Water Play Can Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe‘, and in it is says that the Universe means everything around us and that we are all made of stardust.  It demonstrates the simple fact that children who are very young believe in a god in the way they did before science, writing and religious leaders tweaked the word of god to suit their own purposes.  Maybe we will all find god in the sandpit or water fountain or at least appreciate the wonders of our universe – however it was created.

Being a parent is a constant learning curve – you think you have got the hang of it and then your child reaches another stage of development and everything goes lopsided again.  When children are very young this happens almost every six


months starting with the disruption when weaning begins.  We do get a reprieve, sort of, between the ages of six and eleven where your child is emotionally balanced and satisfied with just being loved, cared for and getting toys they want.  However the hormonal changes that occur during adolescence can suddenly change a contented happy children into one who needs to rebel against everything they once accepted willingly.  Rebellion is a natural part of growing up because it is an evolutionary attempt to do things differently from your parents so that you can improve your lot in life.

As parents we have to understand that teenagers are going through another milestone and although they are not dinky and cute wearing nappies, they still need us to protect them. During puberty a child’s body transforms into an adult body but their brains are still not fully developed.  Teenagers are very vulnerable at this stage because the image they portray is far more mature than the child inside.  An adolescent child becomes a pack animal that likes to trawl the streets at night looking for excitement, they would rather hang out in the cold with their mates than stay at home with their boring parents. The only real way that we can ensure teenagers’ safety is by providing safe places for them to go without telling them to go there.

In January this year Playdale playgrounds Ltd wrote an article about Teenage shelters. Playdale reported that Thames Valley Police found that  appropriately located teenage shelters resulted in a reduction of graffiti and crime in the vicinity of the shelter.  Although a teenage shelter is not a total solution to teenage crime it can allow teenagers to hang out safely away from street corners.  Teenage shelters located near sports fields can actively encourage teenagers to follow local sporting events and, if it is not too uncool, may inspire them to take up a sport.

Ideally (and I say that without any experience) we need to fortify our children with lots of interests and hobbies so that they are not inclined to hang out aimlessly.  However the results of puberty are unpredictable and your little cutie may turn into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when their hormones start raging.


I have got about five years to go before the first strains of adolescence strikes and I dread the battle of wills and the conflict, which is inevitable.  I will be buying teenager books – just like baby books and hope that there is a proper instruction manual!


As you know my son is techno geek and does spend rather a lot of time on his computer either playing games, watching gamers videos or making his own videos.  He frequently comes to tell us what he is doing and shows us the worlds he has created in Minecraft, so he doesn’t sit there like a zombie all by himself not communicating with anyone.  When we are out he talks about different rocks and finds interesting stones and asks what they are. Often we have discussions about what would happen if you tried to mine all the way through the earth and how mountains and valleys are made.  We discuss time travel and the possibility of using portals to travel from one world to the another and what type of world you would like to travel to.  In fact the topics we discuss are all about life from creation to death and what it would feel like to be dead.  Of course I can’t answer all of his questions but can talk about different peoples’ beliefs. The most amazing part of all of this is that all of this curiosity stems from the Minecraft worlds he creates.

At the moment he is working on an imaginary world called, ‘The Netherland’, which I think is a miss hearing of Neverland as opposed to referring to the country we once called Holland.  Any way he has been working on this land for a long time and shares his ideas by leading all of his friends in an imaginary game at school.  All of his friends go to the Netherland at playtime  and look for magic portals to new worlds – Alistair of course is the inspiration for all of the games because he describes the landscape to his friends and paints an imaginary world on the playground.  When I pick him up from after school club he is always looking at a little hole in the wall with two of his friend because it is a portal to the Netherlands.

Alistair’s fascination with Minecraft has given him an interest in how landscape is formed, what it is made from and what is possible in the real world.  He is totally inspired to tell and act out stories and will be starting Story club soon so that he can hopefully tell stories about his worlds.  We rarely have to help him with his computer because he is very good at reading and can often find solutions by using search engines.  Alistair’s ability to transfer a computer game fantasy to imaginative play in either a playground or garden reassures me that he is not wasting his time on the computer.  He is not a recluse and enjoys getting down and dirty in puddles and flower beds, he is sociable and communicates really well with his friends and adults.  I have to admit we didn’t let him have a computer until he had reached a good level of reading because we wanted reading to be the most important skill he had before he did anything else.

Computer games are wonderful as long as children are able to talk about what they are doing and show an interest in what their children have learned and discovered.  A computer isn’t really a babysitter but does give you a bit of peace and quiet when you need it.


Celebrate the small victories. Have they been fed? Put to bed? Are they clothed at all? {Dirty, clean, matching…it doesn’t matter.} Are they chattering, smiling, maybe even singing? If the answer is yes to any of these, you’ve done something right. Scooper.

Sometimes at night I dream that my son looks underfed, dirty and is really unhappy because I haven’t looked after him properly.  I think that this may stem from the fact that his umbilical cord was very narrow causing him to be tiny at birth and for many years he only tended to eat until his tummy was full.  Everyone always commented on how small he was and I really felt as if I was failing in some way because I didn’t try to force him to eat more than he could manage. His small stature meant that although he had all of the motor skills necessary do do things he didn’t have the strength or height.  I overcame this hurdle by waiting until he felt ready to do things – such as using the toilet instead of the potty or climbing up climbing frames.  He was never behind -just left it until the last minute. He has finally started to catch up with his peers and no longer stands out as noticeably smaller – also he uses words like starving, his appetite has finally exploded and he gets wakened by growing pains which is fantastic.

My son never looked like Oliver Twist and except for the minor little things that upset young children like; having to go to bed, me not letting him have the contents of Amazon’s warehouse or asking him to tidy his bedroom, he is a happy little boy. I often wonder if other mothers have dreams like that or it is just me being weird. Alistair is a cautions child which means that he will eventually be able to climb to the top of play tower and use the slide but not as quickly as some of the younger more daring children.  Luckily my son doesn’t get bothered about admitting that he can or can’t do something and seems to anticipate that eventually he will be able to do it.

All children are different, as are all mothers, they way my friends bring up their children will have similarities but will have many fundamental differences due to our own life experiences.  Alistair often claims that I am not very caring when he falls over and hurt himself compared to other mothers who rush to stop the tears.  This probably stems from me having to deal with other people’s children and trying to chivvy them along.  I also continuously do risk assessments of what my son is doing in my head with the intention of letting him takes risks in safety – sometimes this looks as if I am just letting him walk into danger when in fact I am ready to pounce like a cat to stop him from hurting himself too much.

I put the quote from a blog by Lisa Jo Baker because it made me realise that all our children want from us is for us to be there and deal with their basic needs.  One day we will solve our odd sock problem (I have a pack of seven new ones that I bought for the new term but have lost them already) and maybe he will stop being Oliver Twist in my dreams.

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November 2015
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