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Archive for the ‘Playgrounds’ Category


Generally you don’t really take much notice of the condition of playgrounds until you get a child’s eye view.  Parents of preschool children tend to spend lots of time in playgrounds giving their children fresh air and getting out of the house.  Our local Sure Start centre even provide a list of the locations of playgrounds in our area to visit. Therefore it is hardly surprising that you notice how worn out playground equipment is while you sit in your shattered mother of a toddler state.

The little playground near to us is very basic with just a slide, swings and a couple of rockers.  I did consider fund raising to update the equipment but only got as far as contacting  Playdale and a lady who seemed to know about how to raise funds for playgrounds.  My only major issue was that I didn’t know enough people to start a committee with.  Unfortunately the five years you spend with your baby is very fleeting and before you know it they are striving for independence so you don’t really see the playground equipment close up any more.

Once your child has made the transition from toddler to infant and you are starting to foray into the adult world, the shoddy swings and ancient slide suddenly don’t seem to be important any more. New parents take your place in the playground and if they are all like minded they could work together to improve the local playground.  This is exactly what happened in our area but the playground in question is to be a new one on a big stretch of road quite away from where we live.  The playground project is extremely ambitious and aims to fulfill the recreational needs of all ages including adults.

The NCB has produced a fact sheet on how to raise funds for your playground. You can request a funding guide from playground equipment companies like Playdale Playgrounds who have produced a funding guide. They also follow up the request by contacting you to see if they can help with your project.  Once you have read through all of the instructions you will have to form a committee and be prepared to write detailed plans so that people funding your project know exactly what they are paying for.  In some cases you may need to think about why your project is more important than other people’s so you can secure grants from different organisations.

Hopefully you will have some very creative and dynamic people on your committee who will be full of ideas for fundraising events.  Eventually after a lot of hard slog and dedication you will be ready to speak to your local playground adviser who will help you to confirm which pieces of equipment you would like and where you are going to put them.  Once an installation date has been agreed the playground equipment installers will come and set up your playground.  Most playground equipment companies provide maintenance contracts to ensure that your playground remains in tip top condition.

All that is left is for your local community to launch the new playground and welcome children and parents into your amazing play area.

 

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This year nature seems to have provided us with a bountiful supply of mud.  Whether we have liked it or not country dwellers have been forced to contend with muddy feet and huge puddles on a daily basis.  Children have found having impromptu mud baths fun and washing machines have been working double shifts during this constant wet season.  If we think that sending our little darlings to school will prevent them from getting dirty then we are going to be disappointed.

Mud kitchens are all the rage in schools now, whether a DIY plucky Governor version or bought one, your children will spend some of their school day in mud kitchens.  This article from Playdale Playgrounds explains why mud kitchens are such great fun. At home children can pester Mum and Dad for old utensils, cupboards and buckets so that they can enjoy the glory of mud.  As with all aspects of play, a mud kitchen provides a rich learning experience that we just assumed was mucking about.

If learning objectives and opportunities are what floats your boat then this chart produced by blogger Worms Eye View applies EYFS Learning Opportunities to playing in mud kitchens.

Learning opportunities sheet Outdoor Kitchen

All children can enjoy playing in mud kitchens, as the activity provides learning experiences for children of all abilities.  Aspiring artists and those who like to touch and feel the world have wonderful opportunities to explore texture, consistency and the possibility of shaping mud.  Scientists will totally enjoy experimenting with water quantities and soil types. All children enjoy copying their home life and a kitchen environment is where a lot of the action happens.

Learning objectives aside playing with mud and soil is really pleasurable.  I remember my mud kitchen in the corner of the garden, consisting of an old pan, buckets and a sieve.  One very warm summer holidays 35 years ago was spent sieving dry mud to make a sandy dust – I can’t remember the expensive activities we did that year but playing in my mud kitchen is firmly fixed in my mind.

To make lasting memories kit your kids up with clothes that can withstand mud and frequent washing, old spoons and pans. These are the ingredients of happy childhood memories.


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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

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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

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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

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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.


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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.

 


#nowhere2play

The Association Of Play Industries (API) have become greatly concerned with the lack of play facilities for children, particularly in urban areas, and are conducting a survey to find out from parents the state of play facilities in their area.  The campaign is called #nowhere2play and is supported by Playdale Playgrounds Ltd who are experts in designing play equipment and installing it all over the world.

Do your children have public spaces to play in?  Even in the countryside we are seeing green patches of land being swallowed up by housing estates and school playgrounds sold off to building companies.  Is your local playground somewhere where you and your children like to meet friends and have fun or has it become dilapidated and rarely used.  The Association Of Play Industries (API) have become greatly concerned with the lack of play facilities for children, particularly in urban areas, and are conducting a survey to find out from parents the state of play facilities in their area.  The campaign is called #nowhere2play and is supported by Playdale Playgrounds Ltd who are experts in designing play equipment and installing it all over the world.

We are pretty lucky in this part of Cumbria, as there are plenty of places for children to play, and the majority of playgrounds are well resourced and maintained by committees. In Carlisle funding cuts meant that the council considered bulldozing unused playgrounds down, leaving spaces for imaginative play.  This article in metro.co.uk explains their intentions. I am not sure if they followed through with this plan or were stopped in their tracks.  To be fair the council were only considering removing playgrounds that were rarely used anyway as opposed to ones that were the meeting place of children in particular areas.

Are playgrounds used less these days because we are reluctant to let our children wander from our sight when they are playground age? There are significantly more cars than there used to be, causing us to be more overprotective than we may have been in the past. We are in an age where we fear strangers hanging around our children and allowing them to go and play out of our sight in a playground where there is no one to protect them scary.  Children don’t really gain independence until they are in the upper juniors or starting secondary school, depending on how sensible they are.

As the population of the UK increases we find our selves in a space paradox, we will have more families so we need more houses, we will have more children so we need play areas but the houses have been built on the land that was once a playground.  If children don’t get the opportunity to play outside they become obese and cost the NHS milions so what do we do?


I have to admit I have been a particularly bad parent this summer holidays because I have worked for most of it and only engaged in, ‘perfect’, activities a minimal number of times with my son.  So to write a condescending post about entertaining children seems exceptionally hypocritical.  It is not that I am not interested in spending time with my son because when we are together we gel so well that we chat and entertain each other with simple things.  I am constantly encouraging him to think for himself and find ways that he can entertain himself as a complete contrast to the intensity of the school day.  Is it my imagination or do children look lost the first few days of the holidays because nobody is telling them what to do.

When my son was born I dedicated all my efforts into getting him ready to learn and fortified him with so many words and sounds that he could pick them up pretty quickly when he got to school.  Now that he is six and achieving exactly what I was aiming for, I feel that it is time for him to start applying his skills more so that they become practical rather than theoretical so they are of concrete use to him.  This type of parenting involves only giving him a helping hand after he has tried or nudge him in the right direction – which looks like lazy parenting.  I put in such a lot of ground work to learn everything about my son when was small I don’t really have to nag him very much and only have to raise my voice to remind him that six year olds have to listen sometimes.

Next year is SATs for my son and although he seems to find tests quite amicable and just gets on with it, I feel rather sad that the first seven years of my son’s life is going to be summarised by some form of levelling, (which no longer seems clear). My son still believes in magic and is a cuddly and considerate little boy who can tell if you need kind words to make you feel better.  When he goes to the playground he finds friends to play with and enjoys socialising with people.  At school he appreciates everything that the teachers have set up for him in the school playground and never likes to leave.

Although I missed my son for part days during the holidays I did spend loads of time with him and just got used to him bouncing around singing, dancing, talking and cuddling up to me.  I am really dreading dropping him off at the school playground at the beginning of term because I love him more and more every single day and want to keep him in his magic bubble.


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It is going to be so exciting when the children go back to school in September because they will find some new playground equipment in their school grounds.  The PTA and local business Make Us A Website have put money together to buy playground equipment from Playdale Playgrounds.  If my memory serves me correctly when we go back to school in September there will be a new Story Telling Chair, climbing wall and a bird table. These pieces of playground equipment will be great additions to the playground simply because of the play potential the children can have with them at playtimes.

The school playground is quite small really but the imaginative teachers have utilised the space to its fullest potential by having different activities in all of the nooks and crannies.  It would seem that apart from the sand pit and mud kitchen, the favourite playground activity is to build wobbly towers using crates and terrify any observing adult that they may just tumble when they reach the top.  Parts of the playground remind me of the concept of the, ‘The Land‘, in Plas Madoc in South Wales, where children are able to use every day junk to create their own play area.  Whereas only a minute part of Allithwaite school playground is dedicated to this type of play (it would look really awful otherwise) the whole play area in Plas Madoc is devoted to imaginative play.

Apparently when you approach, “The Land. A Space Full of Possibilities.” (Guardian) it looks like a dangerous junk yard and would send chills down the spine of any over cautious parent.  The whole point of the area is for children to learn about risk in their own way and explore activities that they may be prohibited from doing elsewhere.  Children who play in The Land recall exciting experiences where they have built amazing dens and furnished them with mattresses they have found.  Others remember building a huge water slide.   Inspirational youth worker Claire Griffiths set up The Land and with assistance supervises the children from a safe distance, broken bones and grazes are inevitable but that is all part of the learning process.  Play experts from all over the world have visited The Land to observe and gain inspiration from the project.

Plas Madoc is a town stained with deprivation, the local leisure centre has closed and play opportunities are few and far between for children.  The Land gives these children a sense of purpose and achievement that can not be acquired in a structured environment.  Apparently the risk assessment for The Land is huge and is based on risk verses benefits from the activity, the fire risk assessment is nine pages long.  I was lucky to grow up in a time where there was enough space to do all of the things that the children do in The Land before over protectiveness took hold.  Being left to your own devices to play and learn about pain and your limitations gives you a strength and independence that cannot be found in a text book.

As parents we really do need to loosen our apron strings and let our children find out for them selves what they can create.  It is very difficult though because when your child hurts themselves you can feel their pain and you want to protect them for ever – sadly this does not protect them as it make it difficult for them to deal with adversity in real life.


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When A.A. Milne penned his famous poem, ‘Now We Are Six’, he displayed a completely accurate understanding of the different stages of children’s interaction with the world.  Now my son is six he really does believe that he is, ‘as clever as clever’, and seems to require an awful lot of negotiating to get anything done, if things are not going his way he has taken to putting on a whiny noise or fake crying, which is profoundly irritating.  He frequently reprimands me if I have forgotten to use my telepathic skills to remind him to do something that only he knows that needs doing, and gets annoyed with me if I keep mentioning that he should be doing this or that.  He is a very good reader and good at comprehension so he doesn’t require my assistance very much when he does things on the computer because he can follow the instructions.  Most of the time I feel as if we are only getting away with him not turning into a complete horror because he is fundamentally a good child.

Alistair is a bit torn between growing up and staying a little boy, he enjoys his exciting dreams, digging in the sand pit, collecting sticks and stones, wearing face paint, baking  and talking to imaginary friends. He often says that he doesn’t want to grow up (I have told him nobody does – it just happens) but can articulate that feeling so well that I am impressed with his use of language.  For all of his bravado he still likes me to rescue him from the top of the climbing frame in the playground but is very comfortable using the Trim Trail in school.  I have to admit that I really like it on the very odd occasion when he is ill, not in a Münchhausen By Proxy kind of way, because he becomes my baby again and is soft, cuddly and isn’t bossy for a short while.  However once he is back to full health he is like a busy bee exploring the exciting world around him.

If you look up childhood milestones on any parenting site one of the main characteristics of a six year old is the desire to test boundaries and see how mad they can drive you.  Apparently you are meant to stick to your guns and not budge, we however fail on that parenting advice and still work on the principle of choosing our battles wisely and then putting our foot down when, ‘peas get above sticks’, as my Grand dad used to say.  One battle we seem to be having at the moment involves teeth cleaning and saying that all of his teeth will fall out isn’t washing because the little entrepreneur that he is just works out how much money he will get for his teeth.  Also telling him that the Tooth Fairy won’t take his teeth doesn’t wash because that is just silly.  We have talked to him about the long term health implications of not cleaning your teeth and allowed him to watch little snippets of ,’The Truth About Your Teeth‘, on BBC 1 and he is slowly coming round.   When we visited the dentist, the dentist was impressed with his teeth and was surprised that he had made them sparkling white himself – I think that the fact that he just drinks water or milk and only gets sweets in rare batches helps too.  Prevention is always better than cure.

Alistair is really looking forward to the school holidays and so am I – it is a time for enjoying life just because you can, not to tick off boxes so that you can be categorised.  The greatest thing I want for Alistair is that he enjoys being who he is now in every stage of his life and can find his inner-peace when I am not nearby.


I really truly thought that I had managed to bring up a child who like the simple pleasures of sticks, stones and mud as opposed to wanting to blow copious amounts of cash going to places where he will end up finding sticks, stones and mud to play with.  Alas I have been virtually unsuccessful in this attempt – I give my son pocket money so he can have a bit of financial freedom.  My crafty boy hides his cash and still expects me to pay because he wants to save his money and it is not fair that I expect him to spend his.  One thing I have discovered is that if you don’t expose children to places that are screaming out for cash they are no longer distracted by the need to spend and they settle to play with what they have around them.  Bearing this in mind I have thought of five activities that won’t cost you a penny – unless you buy sweets and ice cream of course.

Make A Mud Kitchen

Creative Digital Camera

This is definitely not for the feint hearted and those who cannot abide dirt but it will keep them entertained for hours.  Choose a corner of the garden where there is mud that is easy to access, bring out the pots and pans, add water and let your child have fun.  Put old clothes on them and it won’t matter how dirty they get.  I remember spending the whole summer holidays playing in the coal bunker – I got so filthy and looked as if I had been down a mine but I can’t remember the paid activities I did that year.

Make Natural Sculptures

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I always mention this one and talk about Andy Goldsworthy as an example.  Basically all it involves is collecting any bits of nature or rubbish (as long as it is safe) lying around and making a picture out of it.  We live right by an estuary and there is often loads of treasure lying around for us to use; drift wood, plastic bottles, old shoes, bits of plastic, straw and stones.  You will be surprised at how creative your child an be and how explaining what they have made can improve their language and imagination skills.

Visit The Local Playground

allithwaite playground

This activity does sometimes coincide with a visit to the sweetshop but often allows you to relax and chat to other parents while your child is completely occupied by other children in the playground.  Visiting a playground regularly means that you don’t have worry about having playground equipment in the garden at home.  In my experience children tend to look for the mud and stones in every playground they go in so don’t put them in their best togs – it will only drive you mad.

Make A Picnic And Go To The Beach

Children_on_the_beach_by_namioevangelista

If anything was invented for children to run free and parents to relax a little – it was the beach.  make sure you set ground rules like; don’t go into the sea without supervision, stay within sight, Keep off the road and by no account go home with anyone else you should be able to let your little monsters run free.  You will find yourself making sandcastles and digging moats, so cast off your inhibitions and dig down and get sandy.

Go Round To Grandma’s 

If Grandma lives too far away go and visit friends and relatives instead. Grand parents are generally so excited to see their grand children that they will quite happily entertain them for the whole afternoon – giving you the chance to relax with a cup of coffee, home made cake and a bit of peace and quiet.

These are very simple suggestions but they are surprisingly very time consuming and once you ignite your child’s imagination they develop momentum and can enjoy playing for hours and hours.  Whatever you do – enjoy them while they are young! As for my son being very money minded he informed me yesterday that money was not important,  life was and he knew that just because he knew.


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