“The opposite of play is not work… It’s depression”. This is from a Ted Talk by pioneer researcher on play, Dr. Stuart Brown. He also mentions how play is directly related to our capacity for adaptability. During a meeting, this week, a supplier mentioned that there were chameleons in his granadilla hedge. I had a client with me and the three of us spent ten minutes or so searching for chameleons while eating granadillas, warm from the sun and speaking of childhood. It was the highlight of my day. My profession often allows me such opportunities to be enchanted by nature and I also get to see just how important it is for both adults and children to have unstructured time together, and alone, outside.
DESIGNING FOR PLAY There are various ways to facilitate garden play. They can be intentional or "facilitated incidental". Structures: I love these play structures created by Jay Nilsson of Dream Weavers
He has revolutionised the old-fashioned jungle gym and creates masterpieces of creative ingenuity that integrate all sorts of play opportunities.
Surfaces: Two good examples of pubic dedicated play areas I’ve seen is in the Green Point Park in Cape Town and Vergelegan Estate in Somerset west. Both areas have used a rubberised surface. This is a safe, non-slip option, but it also allows for bright colour floor markings that contribute to games. Another great, cheap surface is wood chip which is soft and lends a natural look.
Climbing trees: I possibly spent more time in a tree than on the ground during the day as a child. I still like climbing into trees. I imagine they are holding me.
Climbing walls: Safe spaces for adults or children to clamber about. Water play: The shallow stream at the Vergelegen play area means that children can play safely.
Natural pools combine the joy of swimming with an opportunity to learn about the biology of natural water purification with an ecologically friendlier alternative to the resource guzzling old fashioned pool. The vegetation and layout it requires to work make it more like playing in a wild rock pool. It is also a home for creatures like frogs, fish, birds, dragonflies. …And they are so pretty.
Play Houses: Have you heard of She Sheds? In response to the Man Cave – it is a beautiful place in the garden to sleep, read and be creative. Adults and children love secret spaces to escape to. How about a spot to sleep outside together?
I dream of a tree house.
Food Gardens: Play with your food! There are so any ways for adults and children to play and learn while growing food together that this could be a whole other article. Consider having even a little planter box where you can both experiment. Sculptures and features: Populate your garden with enchanted and humorous narratives.
Secret places: Incidental play happens with the creation of a space that calls our inner and outer children out to explore. Make wooded pathways that meander so that there are hidden areas.
I hope this has inspired you to go be creative with your garden! Give us a shout if you need a hand with any of this.