Playgrounds have been an important feature of village, town and city parks since the 1950s. In 2019 children’s playgrounds still play a pivotal role in bringing communities together. Here at TouchWood Play, we’re passionate about play and the huge benefits a well-designed natural playground can bring to a community.  

recent study from Play England highlights the importance of outdoor play areas in communities. The report suggests that community playgrounds can hugely improve the quality of resident’s lives in both the short and long term. A community playground can become the beating heart of a community, providing a place where families can come together to socialise and feel welcome, to play and develop new and exciting friendships. However, for a community to reap the most benefit, a community playground needs to be carefully designed.

To create the best community playground, the following 5 things should be considered:

1. A Play Connection to Nature

Natural play environments are great for children. Spending time outside, connecting with nature not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but has also been shown to significantly enhance children’s learning and development. There is also mounting evidence put forward by play experts suggesting that contact with nature and natural materials helps children to develop important life skills too.

At TouchWood, we believe that play is an essential part of childhood. Nature play helps children to develop physically and mentally in a healthy and natural environment. Playing in public parks can help children to learn crucial and meaningful lessons about the world and, therefore, equip them to live a more fulfilling and fruitful life in the future.

Playgrounds made from natural materials can stimulate children’s imaginations and creativity. In fact, timber playgrounds have been proven to be significantly better at engaging children in this way compared to playgrounds made from metal or plastic. Children play more freely, creatively and imaginatively building stronger connections to the surrounding environment in natural playgrounds. Learn more about the benefits of nature play now.

Exploring nature through playing with natural objects also promotes a wide range of educational opportunities and the chance to develop an interest in and passion for the natural world. 

2. Community Engagement

Facilitating community buy-in is an important aspect of creating an effective community playground. If the local community feel invested and involved in the creation of their playground, they are more likely to hold a sense of pride in, and connection to, the play area and its environment. This has wider positive benefits too. From uniting communities via a sense of belonging and inclusion to minimising vandalism, community project playgrounds can really improve local communities.

Natural playgrounds also improve the aesthetic of the community’s environment. They can reflect and connect with the wider environment in rural areas and add a touch of woodland magic to more urban locations.

TouchWood Play’s Community workshops

Some of our best playgrounds have involved partnering with the community in the design of the play area through our workshops

3. Sustainability & Environmental Impact

Interest in sustainable play solutions is now growing as environmental awareness becomes more mainstream. Using sustainable, natural materials to build a community playground helps to reduce human impact on the local environment. Wood makes an excellent choice for building playgrounds as it is both durable and blends into its natural surroundings. Wood locks up carbon and is extremely tough.

Wherever possible, TouchWood aims to use sustainable materials and work with carefully selected local and responsible suppliers when sourcing additional products. For example, the grass mats we use for surfacing are made from recycled rubber.

We use a mix of durable British timbers including cedar, chestnut and oak to ensure the longevity of a playground. This approach helps us to minimise our use of imported timber and keeps our carbon footprint low.

Unlike metal or plastic, wood can be recycled effectively. Our playgrounds are designed to have a long and meaningful life. As well as being long-lasting, natural wooden playgrounds are also easy to maintain and repair as any damage can be easily removed or remedied. And, when they do reach the end of their useful life, most component parts can be easily reclaimed or re-purposed.

Colour photo of children playing on net tunnel in wooden adventure playground

4. Flexiblity & Adaptability of Play Areas

A community playground should be able to serve the play needs of everyone within the community. It should encourage exciting and imaginative play for all ages and abilities. We’re passionate about providing inviting and accessible play area solutions for communities.

A good playground will also adapt to the changing needs of a community. As we design and build our playgrounds in-house, we can easily reproduce, adapt or repurpose our playgrounds to meet the needs of the community it’s built in.

Alternatively, we can install playground features in a phased approach. This could help if access to funding is restricted or spread out over a number of years. And, because our approach is bespoke, we can ensure that not only is the completed play area a cohesive design but also that each individual phase offers the best play value possible. This bespoke approach prevents each addition just seeming like an ‘add-on’ or afterthought.  

5. Connection to the surrounding environment

We believe that community playgrounds should complement and enhance the wider environment in which it is set. TouchWood Play’s Natural playgrounds are ideally suited to this as they can be designed to fit existing structures, site features and challenging landscape topography.

On each of our many playground projects, we’ve been careful in considering how our installations fit within the environment they are placed. Working in close collaboration with every client, our bespoke design approach ensures that every play area we create sits perfectly within its surrounding environment. 

TouchWood Play is a specialist design and build natural playground company with over 21 years’ experience creating innovative, highly engineered playgrounds and adventure play areas.

We are experts in applying leading conceptual theories about nature play to our award-winning work. Our ability to deliver well designed and high-quality woodcraft products make us the go-to provider for natural wooden, bespoke playgrounds.

We’ve created several community playgrounds projects across the UK. If you’d like to learn more about what we have to offer please contact us today!

You can also find out more about how to transform urban spaces with dynamic playground structures.