Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 6 No 1 Contents V6 N1 2017 59
Play Areas, Equipment
& Sustainable Practice
B: What do the kids and educators love about the space?
RK: They love that it’s an extension of the indoor to the outdoors,
and there’s a variety of outdoor places where children can
construct their own learning based on individual and personal
interest. Educators love that the spaces encourage team work
and collaboration, and the outdoor environment acts as the
‘third teacher’. It is designed as a fluid space that encourages
exploration and builds on the unique identity of the school.
B: What is your advice for other early learning centre directors
and managers that are planning a playspace upgrade?
RK: A thorough understanding of the wants and needs of all
stakeholders, especially the children, needs to be distilled in order
to create a successful playspace. Using nature play principles, a
cost-effective playspace can be created that gives much greater
benefit to child development than many high-budget designs.
Fit Kidz Putney Playspace, situated in Putney, New South Wales,
was highly commended in the Kidsafe National Playspace
Awards. Melissa Scaife, Co-owner of the centre, shared with us
her thoughts on the new playspace.
B: Tell us briefly about your new play space.
Melissa Scaife (MS): It’s an exciting space that allows children
to explore and discover in a manner that offers gross motor
challenges and invigorates their imagination. It is a multi-purpose
space that supports all age groups and abilities. Children have
access to a super-cool suspended net tunnel, an adventurous
purple slippery dip along with opportunities to climb, hide and
Our yard includes chickens and a very busy worm farm that
will take care of lots of our scraps. Together they will provide
for our veggie gardens, where the children will grow their own
flowers and produce, some of which we will use in our kitchen.
We believe that children need leisurely, sandy, dirty, wet, playful,
investigative and exploratory time outside, and our yard is
designed to provide these enriching opportunities, enabling our
children to connect with nature in a way that modern lifestyles
may not allow.
B: What is unique about it that attracted the judges’ attention?
MS: The opportunities that children have to explore risk. It is quite
open-ended and caters for a range of ages and abilities. It is not
only aesthetically pleasing with a balance of natural materials and
modern design, but it also serves to be meaningful in the way in
which children engage with the space.
We aim to provide an enriching outdoor environment that allows
children to become explorers and investigators at their own
pace. Providing a natural play setting helps to foster healthy,
happy, smart, well-adjusted children. We created our outdoor
environment with a back-to-nature approach, with the hope of
reconnecting children with the natural world.
B: What do the kids love about the space?
MS: The children have the opportunity and time to explore the
fixed design elements of the garden, including the suspension
bridge, creek bed and sandstone, but also the opportunity to
bring typically indoor activities outside – for example, easel
painting in the garden and chalk drawing on rocks. Dress ups in
a quiet corner of the garden can provide the inspiration and also
stimulate role-playing experiences.
It allows them to transform into any character their imaginations
will conjure. With little nooks, they can make believe any scenario
from hairdressers to superheroes. The fort has been anything from
a pirate ship to a space rocket, a fairy garden and a home. They
can explore their own abilities and see just what they are capable
of. They can work alone or in a team. They can affirm each other
and support their peers through challenges
B: What is your advice for other centre directors and managers
when considering a play space upgrade?
MS: Place the children at the forefront of your decisions. Observe
them in the space you already have, and consult with them
to make informed decisions of what challenges and exciting
changes could be added. Reflect and ask yourself, ‘What would
the children enjoy?’; ‘How can this space become meaningful
and purposeful?’; and ‘How can I ensure that this space will offer
open-ended opportunities for exploration and imagination?’
B: How did you go about selecting a play space designer?
MS: Our designer needed to be innovative and share our vision,
and was not afraid to think outside the box. We had a great deal
of input, and most of our decisions were made based on our
experience of watching children in our other centres over the
years and observing how space is used. We love watching the
different ways children engage in the outdoor space and we see
the children as our teachers – they guide us to have great focus
and dedication in designing and building our play spaces.
Wandana Outdoor Learning Area. Image courtesy of Sam Noonan
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