We offer an open access staffed adventure playground providing an after school/playscheme service to local 0-16 year olds and their families, plus project and ‘free time’ use by schools and pupil referral units on weekdays. The playground aims to compensate for the lack of play opportunities to children in the area caused by heavy traffic and roads, an unsupportive attitude to children’s play from adults and both real and perceived dangers of crime, drugs and predatory adults.
The outdoor site caters for all types of play, construction and creative activities, and use of the elements earth, air, fire and water. It has purpose-built wooden structures which the children contribute to design and build including platforms and bridges for climbing and running. It also has a large sandpit, firepit, zipwire, tango swing and legging swing, a tunnel and space to run, be noisy, dance, build etc. Children can use tools to create their own dens, help cook over the open fire and use a huge array of recycled resources and loose parts to make things, dress up and play in any way they choose – ways often not condoned or allowed elsewhere. Our society tends to focus on the education and protection of children and rarely considers their play needs and yet play is the natural means by which kids express themselves, enjoy life, develop and thrive.
The playground is staffed by qualified playworkers throughout the year, opening after school and on Saturdays during term times and Monday to Friday all day during school holidays. We have over 1,000 registered users plus accompanied casual use by up to another thousand children. We can see usership from 450/day to 20/day (summer holiday/winter after-school). In addition to open access play, the site has become known as a place to get informal (ie not ‘official’) support, is a food bank and clothes/bedding bank distributor, a referral point for children and parents into other services and a meeting point for parents and families, many of whom experience isolation.
We open one evening a week just for teenagers (although dozens do come after-school as well) and plan to extend this to twice a week as soon as we can. And one day a week we work in partnership with SoLO (Solihull Life Opportunities) who bring groups of disabled children to the playground – we want to build on this so that more of these children can come at other times too.