Government Planners: What would we do without them?

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3 Responses to Government Planners: What would we do without them?

  1. C.L. says:

    The park is soggy and a bit squishy after rain but six-year-old twins Rob and John Washburn are not deterred. Picking up spades left at a pop-up nature play area in Callan Park in Sydney’s inner west, they began excavating.

    “They dig a hole, fill it up again, and start again,” says their mother, Sonia Washburn of Leichhardt. “This is just what they want to do. They want to pick up things, bang things. It is tapping into something primordial.”

    With sticks provided that may be wielded in a duel or stacked to make the side wall of a cubby, the nature play area in Sydney’s inner west is running for the duration of the school holidays.

    Installed by experts from Centennial Parklands, nature or wild play aims to stimulate imaginative and unstructured play and encourage children (and their parents) to connect with the natural world and switch off their electronic devices.

    At the same time as the Washburn twins are digging, another set of twins, Sophia and Theodore (last names withheld) turn a long bit of bamboo into a see-saw. Holding ropes suspended from an enormous tree, they teeter, bounce and, briefly, balance.

    Across Australia, these wild or nature parks are spreading in number. Every state and territory, except NSW, now has a peak body to represent this growing sector.

    Centennial Parklands, which started the Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden in 2011 and has been offering wild play ever since, is leading the way.

    It commissioned a report on wild play last year that found nature play created resilient, innovative and healthy children who have the self-confidence to create their future.

    As a result, it has started a steering group it hopes will lead to the creation of a state body and prompt more organisations and councils to establish similar areas. The NSW government has also earmarked $16.7 million under the Places to Play program to provide more open spaces for adventure and play. The deadline for applications for the first round of grants closes in early March.

    In Sydney’s north, Ku-ring-gai Council is asking locals for feedback on a proposal to incorporate these less structured areas into existing playgrounds.

    A spokesperson says research showed nature play can help develop resilience and improve immunity, physical co-ordination skills and teamwork.

    It is considering play areas that include mounds and embankments, trees and other structures for climbing and balancing, sand and water, and cubby and tree houses.

    Why would a bushy area like this need wild play? The spokesperson says it offers a different experience from being “in the bush”. Not all residents have access to bushland, particularly those in apartments or more densely populated suburbs.

    Now living in the inner west, Ms Washburn says she grew up in the country. “We had backyards, and we went outside, and you only came home to eat.”

    Her children have a different life: “We live in a unit and every outing is supervised and organised, so [the children] having an opportunity to run around is great. Usually, there is a parent hovering around, saying, ‘What are you doing?’.”

    At the pop-up, the children figure out how to work with others, and take turns on a swing or digging. [The spade and shovel the Washburn boys are using has been left at the park by a visitor for the enjoyment of visiting children.]

    “There’s not the constant helicoptering of the parents. It is the children working it out,” says Ms Washburn. “And that’s what’s missing from the children’s interactions. It builds a more confident and autonomous child who can go out make friends and come back.”

    QR codes on trees at Callan Park link to videos providing advice on how to make a cubby, a digging stick or a fire. These are more to educate urban parents who are more risk averse than in the past, says Christian Eckardt, the manager of education and community programs of Greater Sydney Parklands, which includes Centennial and Callan Parks.

    “We see our big work in educating parents. You don’t need to teach a child how to play in the mud. But it is [a way of saying to parents], your child needs to have their hands in the mud. It is good for the immune system. If we cotton wool our children, we are not doing them a favour.”

    Nature play has an inherent risk, says Mr Eckhart. “Only when you’re challenged do you learn.”

    The pop-up playground includes log circles, an obstacle course, a sensory trail, cubby house village and a climbing tree.

    “This is not your conventional playground,” the former minister Rob Stokes said before he switched to a new portfolio. “It is real out-of-the-box thinking to get our kids thinking creatively and collaboratively by connecting to the natural world.”


    By Julie Power, SMH.

  2. a reader says:

    This is so inner-west

  3. Shy Ted says:

    QR codes on trees

    There it is. We know where you are. So we can…

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