On Thursday 31 May 2012, there was a great article in the Melbourne Herald Sun about children’s play in school yards. Paul Tranter, an academic in Canberra, studied the change in children’s behaviour when they were given ‘loose materials’ for their play. These materials comprised milk crates, pool noodles and car tyres, amongst other things. He found that children co-operate more, children of different ages play more, and there seemed to be less school yard bullying. The results say a lot about the value of providing materials for creative play rather than relying on stock standard prescriptive play equipment.
The other day, I attended a few talks organised by the Victorian Children’s Nature Connection along. It was really great. One speaker discussed planning, another talked about social interaction in neighbourhoods, a children’s author was there… The adults played with sand, leaves, cones and other materials to create things. This event, as well as its location – The Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens (which has a great kids area, in case you haven’t visited yet), reminds me how important it is for kids and adults to get outside and do ‘nothing’. It’s amazing how relaxing it can be. This occasion, like other times I have seen people play at the beach, in the bush, by a river…, was punctuated by laughter, silliness, new ideas, and reflection.
Today I had this great landscape architect, Mary Jeavons , come speak to my uni students. Mary has designed a lot of public spaces and school spaces for both the general public and specifically in relation to children. Two of the most importing ideas I got from today is the need for everyone – academics, planning & design professionals, teachers, parents…to demand that we get more than the equipment from a catalogue, and that designers and kids have more say in park design than insurance bodies and risk managers.