What do I mean by transitional play? When kids play it becomes a story, an adventure as they move from one creative story to another. When we build parks we tend to think of them as objects and this leads to disjointed play. The play park that was recently built below is good fun and allows the kids to swing, spin around and climb over a wooden structure. What it doesn’t do is encourage them to create stories and adventures. In order to do this we need to build transitional play. I need to say at this point in time I am using the term transitional play – I am not sure if it is a recognised term!

So what do I mean by transitional play? I mean the transition between indoors and outdoors play and also the transition between playing objects or areas. This transition is important and I feel we need to do more study in order to gain a greater understanding of how children play. However, I want to look at the new play area not to put it down or disparage it but to offer a critical solution to help encourage more play.

As I watch my own children play it is evident that they play on an object, chat to their friends and then move onto the next object. Sometimes friends go with them and sometimes they go on their own. But there is rarely any play moving from one object to another. The objects are placed in a line and have limited play value in that they don’t encourage story telling. So to make the play more play like and story telling we need to introduce the opportunity for children to transition from one object to the next. We don’t need to spend a huge amount of money to achieve this and in fact we don’t need to spend that much money on our play parks. We just need to be inventive. For instance one of the easiest opportunities to instil imagination, relationships and to encourage children to work together is swings. And yet we waste the opportunity every time. Swings are nearly always installed in a line. And yet if we install them in a triangle ensuring enough distance apart so that the swings don’t hit each other then we create opportunity for play. Children now swing towards each other, laughing and shouting at each other as they try to go higher or touch feet. Yes it sounds dangerous but then we don’t need to wrap children up in cottonwool.

Other simple ways of introducing transitional play can be found by using bamboo, willow, flowers, squares painted and marked into the ground or using different types of grass to form the squares. Using soil to build a mound or to make two mounds – something that can be run over and through. Bark paths lined with fallen logs formed into a pattern like the classic 3 x 3 squares can then be used to play noughts and crosses and can introduce transitional play. For instance we could have fun with a roundabout. We could place the roundabout into the middle square and then a child (a cross) enters onto the roundabout and spins. Where they stop they get off and then a nought gets on and repeats the same thing. Eventually the last cross gets onto the roundabout and hopefully will complete a line. Although a line can be created by joining the top, bottom or side lines.

In the park below I would build with willow and soil to start to create transitional play. The swings could be hidden behind a wall of bamboo to create a sense of mystery. The climbing frame could have tunnels leading into the areas of play. An area of danger on the climbing frame is normally always the slide. I see a number of children run up a slide and then get hit off as someone comes down. With willow you could create a clever structure framing over the top of the bottom of the slide to prevent this happening. But it then also builds in a sense of mystery. I think we need to start rethinking the way we build our parks so that children get the chance to create adventures.

Coulson Park's new play area
Coulson Park’s new play area
Coulson Park's new play area
Coulson Park’s new play area

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