DIY Adventure Playground – Creative Constructions in Wood

16 August 2017 · 0 comments

in Community Involvement, Outdoor Play, Technologies, Urban

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At the Edinburgh Fringe this year, there’s been a lot of hammering, sawing and building by children and adults on the edge of the Meadows. Passersby were able to witness the growth of an adventure playground under the watchful eye of Woodland Tribe staff and volunteers. The buzz around the place is amazing and this video gives you a flavour of how it feels:

In the words of Tom Williams, the founder, “In our cotton wool society children are often not used to that amount of freedom and control. But we firmly believe that children build a stronger attachment to the space and their play is richer and more rewarding when they are actively involved in creating and changing it.” 

The sheer enthusiasm and absorption of children who dropped in for a couple of hours at a time was a joy to hear and observe. As usual, with a good play project, the creation of this sort of atmosphere doesn’t just happen by magic but is a result of highly skilled, experienced people who know how to plan for and facilitate play.

The amount of wood needed is considerable. The company source this from sawmills. Upon closer examination there’s definite specifications even if the wood is rustic in look and appearance.

I’m not sure if you can see the photo below, but all the tools have been given names. It’s also a clever management system in that at a glance the play workers can tell which tool is out with a child. All the tools were adult-sized

Prior to the site opening, there was other preparation. Throughout the site you could see that fence posts and a few platforms were in place as springboard into the construction process. Beyond this, the children are free to saw wood and hammer it onto the basic model to adapt, refine, re-define and create their own space.

It was really great, quick results, exciting structures and spaces, brilliant attitude from Sam and Tom and other workers. The kids skills and confidence grew everyday, they really liked the power screwdrivers. They built platforms, ladders,  fences, bridges, flags, dens and chairs. The best bit was U & S claiming back a platform from some older boys and working out how to take out their unwanted additions by reversing the power drivers and undoing the big screw bolts. We loved the tribe.” Oliver – a visiting parent

Pens were also available so children can draw and write on the wood as they saw fit. Below is the ladder of ‘pants’…

Tucked away in nooks and crannies other secret works of art had been created. So you never quite knew what to expect as you explored the site.

There were plenty of adults on hand who were assisting children if requested with a particular tricky aspect of construction work. They also kept a check to ensure the design was solid.

The ropes and handrails were unobtrusive and didn’t stop the airy feeling of spaciousness when walking around at height.

The actual space in which the playground is created is surprisingly compact. The height of the structure created three-dimensional space, so that the project could actually take a lot of people.

There was also space for children and adults to build their own dens, swings, chairs, tables or anything that took their fancy. It was lovely to hear children ask if they could take wood home and to be told “Yes, of course.”

My children absolutely loved it – I had to pry them out after two+ hours. We also hope it returns and what a perfect space for it behind the Pavilion.” – Andrea, a visiting parent.

In one section, there were several ropes and nets which were also popular hang outs with children. Again, these were rough affairs, but all at a low level so the gaps did not matter from a height perspective.

All around the site, there was colourful bunting which added to the party atmosphere. For me, this felt like a long-overdue contribution to the Fringe. It was lovely to see the flag flying for adventure playgrounds and giving a drop-in taster of what many adventure playgrounds offer.

Woodland Tribe can attend various events throughout the UK. They are a CIC and charge to cover the cost of staffing and resources. You can also work as a volunteer with them.  Please do encourage your local council or community event to consider pop up play.

“I wish we’d been there all week. Such a brilliant innovative learning experience for my daughter.” – Rebecca – a visiting parent.

In addition to this, there are now groups offering all sorts of exciting possibilities:

  • Check out what your local play organisation can offer, such as a loose parts play session.
  • Monkey Do specialise in playing in trees and net constructions
  • Playing Out provide advice and guidance on street closures for play sessions

Any other interesting play possibilities? Please let me know!

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