I have been working with the National Trust since 2009 to engage more children and families in their unique properties, coast and countryside, through playful offers and activities. I am now pleased to be able to share one product of this work, a ‘think piece’ on play spaces written in 2010. It is entitled – somewhat provocatively – If a Play Area is the Answer, What is the Question? [pdf link].
The paper aimed to raise people’s ideas about what rich, playful offers to children and families might look and feel like. It was written as an internal document for managers of National Trust properties and sites. But it has much wider relevance. I hope that it will be of interest to those managing visitor attractions, heritage sites, museums, country parks, nature areas, regional and national parks; to designers and landscape architects; and even to forward-thinking local authorities, housing associations, parish councils and community groups.
A couple of quotes give a flavour of the content:
Creating fine play space is an art, and takes creativity and imagination. One very useful creative starting point is to think about how the spirit or essence of a site or property – what leading Danish landscape architect Helle Nebelong calls the ‘genius loci’ – might be captured or highlighted, and to bring this out in playful ways.
Thoughtfully chosen loose materials – a box of silk scarves in front of a mirror; buckets and brushes in a stable with some model livestock animals and a water supply; gardening tools and raised beds in a formal garden – turn a passive space into an invitation to explore, engage and imagine.
Published with the kind permission of the National Trust, which retains copyright. If quoted or referenced, please acknowledge authorship and copyright as appropriate.