Playgrounds can't be 'cotton wool' says designer as safety focus increases

Children's playgrounds are evolving from a rickety set of swings and a slide to much safer options, but a playground designer says they can't be all cotton wool.

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They’ve come a long way since the days of monkey bars and see-saws. Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp reports a chute at a playground at Glenfield on Auckland's North Shore has been shut down because of complaints of children overshooting and spilling onto the concrete path below.

Landscape architect Sarah Collins has been designing playgrounds for the last 15 years and knows well the delicate balance between risk and reward for their users.

"Safety is a very important consideration. But there certainly can't be complete cotton wool in a playground," Ms Collins said.

"There will be risk in a playground. That's just what a playground is - it's a challenging space."

Danielle Grant of the Kaipatiki Local Board says parents are not being precious in complaining about the chute at Glenfield's Normanton Reserve.

"We want them to look at the equipment and say 'Am I happy about my child using it?'" she said.

"This one, it was a little too fast, a little too steep. It needs to be modified and we're going to modify it," she said of the chute.

John Gillon of the local board said the playground is designed for "natural play".

"So we have incorporated play elements into the hillside and the trees and we have different things for them to climb up and come back down," he said.

"Playgrounds have come a huge way. These days your imagination is the limit. We can put in absolutely anything you can think of."

A Māori playground in Auckland's Mt Roskill is made completely out of natural materials and is designed to encourage imaginative play.

"Children of all ages having an amazing time," Ms Collins said of that facility.

And for those people casting back to happy times in the scruffy park on the corner, there's some comfort.

"There will always be the place for the good old fashioned swing," Ms Collins said.