In coming posts I will have a lot to say about the provision (or lack thereof) of interesting and stimulating play spaces in South Africa. I thought I should, however, start with some good news and give credit where credit is due. It is really important at this time, bombarded as we are with so much negativity in the media, that we focus on the positive, the alternatives, solutions and better implementation. We know what the problems are, and on the whole we know what needs to be done, so let’s stop focusing on the problem and move to the future. Our children!
I was really pleasantly surprised to see this new playground at the beach front in P.E this past December. I had my nephews in tow so I didn’t look like the weirdo I usually do when I visit playgrounds alone. The playground is a part of the Kings Beach redevelopment project led by the Mandela Bay Development Agency. Some of the features include 3 public swimming pools – one a dedicated paddling pool for toddlers – a skate park; an outdoor gym; ponds, picnic areas and two playgrounds.
The main playground has a really interesting mix of non-traditional play equipment that I have never seen in a public park in SA before. These included various types of balancing beams, wire tightropes, unusual shaped merry-go-rounds, some funky metal ‘telephones’, as well as the very popular giraffes. It was great to see durable natural materials employed – virtually no plastic. It was also nice to see people of all ages in the park, especially the older kids and adults trying out the equipment, falling over, getting up and laughing at themselves – pure fun.
Some critique – one, there seemed to be a lack of variety in terms of height, all the equipment was at a low level. The space could do with climbing structures to add different perspectives and some more risk and adventure. Two, as seen above the water quality of the streams and ponds was poor. Algae were flourishing, which needs to be maintained to provide more opportunities for water play. On the whole I’d give Mandela Bay Development Agency 8 out of 10 for putting children at the heart of urban planning. I hope this space will be cherished and maintained.
Hopefully projects like this will spring up around the country – these spaces are desperately needed. Looking at the Johannesburg Development Agency’s list of completed projects not one strikes me as really child-centred. I will be posting more in coming weeks on play spaces in Johannesburg – our so called “World Class African City”.
Stay tuned. Bless