Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nature Play: Why Sticks & Stones Rock!

Nature Play: Why Sticks & Stones Rock!
While our Playground Conference - focusing on nature-based play - was underway Danielle Marshall at KaBOOM! was interviewing Bethe Balmeras aka the Grass Stain Guru. Bethe talks about some of the current research highlighting the benefits of nature-based play for children.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Natural Play Spaces in the Media

I was very pleased to see on USA Today a story about the increasing trend towards natural play spaces -

The article highlights some of the conflicting views of playground equipment manufacturers and natural play space advocates.

It should not have to be an either/or argument. In most circumstances, using a combination of manufactured equipment within a well-designed landscape can provide optimum benefits - that can also ensure children's safety remains paramount.

The article's final comment by Linda Cain Ruth does highlight the importance of maintenance and that the importance of implementing a rigorous maintenance schedule cannot be overstated. Whether the playground consists of all natural elements, manufactured equipment or a combination of both, playground managers must ensure that playgrounds are inspected for hazards regularly and that any necessary repairs are carried out promptly.

Families can also play a part in this. If there is anything that looks hazardous at the playground, let the playground manager know as soon as possible.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Post-Conference Exhaustion

What an exciting and stressful week or so it's been...
The volano in Iceland created havoc for us - it meant our keynote speaker from the UK - Sue Gutteridge from PLAYLINK - could not get to Perth.
Our Sundowner at Kings Park on Sunday proved to be a fantastic way to start the formalities... although we were actually a long way from formal.
The weather for the sundowner was wonderful - the setting inspiring - the entertainment was fun - the talk about Naturescape was thought-provoking - all 'round terrific!!
Kicking off the conference, Marie Taylor welcomed us all to her country; the Minister for Community Services talked about her childhood and her children's, growing up playing in the outdoors and introduced What Kids Want: playgrounds and play spaces. The Department for Communities commissioned Filmbites Youth Film School to produce this short film in which some of our local primary school children express their views and perspectives about playgrounds and outside play. The film showed that our kids are able to articulate very clearly what they want in outdoor playspaces and it was good to have those views in our minds as we listened to conference presentations.
Some of the other highlights included...
Helle Nebelong dared us to think with a Scandanavian perspective.
David Smith shared more of his ideas about connecting children with nature.
Greg Grabasch talked about his work with Indigenous communities and their connection to country.
The restorative value of landscapes was discussed by Wendy Sarkissian.
Wendy also facilitated a workshop and spirited discussion in relation to reconciling the sometimes competing aspects of play opportunities for children and community safety in residential neighbourhoods.
Fiona Robbe, Catherine Lee and Gillian McAuliffe all presented great ideas in relation to providing nature based play opportunities.
Lianda Gibson gave us ideas for consulting with children.
Marie Martin challenged us to measure the quality of the outdoor playspaces we provide for children against our value frameworks.
Helle, Fiona and Gillian talked about the Nature Action Collaborative for Children and encouraged us to be awed by the wonder of nature.
Laurinda Jones, Jennine Primmer and Cheryl Greenfield showed us some wonderful examples of creative outdoor early childhood play environments.
But the highlight of the conference was certainly our wonderful WA icon - Bernhard Kaiser. Bernhard and his straight man, Terry Farrell, had the audience enthralled in between fits of laughter with their presentation. The hilarity of their presentation, however, did not detract from the extremely important things they had to say about the play needs of children of all ages. Bernhard & Terry certainly need to have more opportunities to share their knowledge and expertise.
Richard Louv's public lecture on Wednesday dovetailed nicely into the week's focus on outside play - so all in all it's been great.
Next week will be back to normal, but memories of the conference and all the interesting people I met will remain.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Counting down to our Playground Conference

After all our months of planning and organising, the start of our conference is almost upon us.
We have a full program - all our speakers and their presentations are locked in.
The program is running through the printing press as I type - I hope!
All the last pieces of the puzzle are falling into place and we are very excited about what is looking like a very exciting event for WA - with speakers coming from Denmark and the UK, New Zealand and across Australia and delegates from government, education, child care & early childhood, community development, parks, landscaping and planning sectors from nearly every state.
We are really looking forward to meeting everyone and making connections with the many different people and organisations involved with children's outdoor play.
Coinciding with our conference Richard Louv will be speaking at a free public event on Wednesday 21 April at the Perth Concert Hall.
We're still taking registrations - so if you are interested in participating - visit our website or contact us at