Play is the Work of Childhood

As a young child, I always loved going to the playground, and my daughters seem to have inherited a passion for swinging on the monkey bars and sliding down the slides. Playgrounds are for fun and physical activity, yet they also encourage kids to stretch their imaginations and develop social and problem-solving skills. Play spaces can be “hubs” where parents engage with their children, meet neighbors and build community.

Every day, BRIDGE serves thousands of children who are developing, maturing and learning at our family properties. We have an opportunity—really, a responsibility—to support their wellness by providing high-quality playgrounds and tot lots.

Interestingly, very little has been written about best practices in play space design and development for multifamily housing. So our Community Development team, headed by Vice President Susan Neufeld, created a set of best practices based on literature re: public and school-based playgrounds. Among the guidelines:

  1. Design for engaging, high “play value” environments that serve a range of ages through the physical landscape (trees, grassy areas, sidewalks) and play equipment (sliders, swings, climbers, jumpers).
  2. Create playgrounds that support community and physical safety.
  3. Install sustainable surfacing and design elements that integrate diverse landscaping, encourage diverse play and have less of an “institutional” feel.
  4. Integrate play areas into other community programming; for playgrounds to serve as hubs, make intentional efforts to bring the community to the playground.
  5. Consider the needs of the community when designing play areas. The availability and cost of land, proximity to safe public parks and playgrounds, and demographics of the community should be considered.

At BRIDGE, we keep these guidelines in mind as we conceive new developments and rehab older properties. Because, as neighborhood expert Mister Rogers once said: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

To see an example of play at work, visit BRIDGEtown for the video of Kai Ming Head Start at North Beach Place, where kids have ample space to play and learn.

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