The development of playgrounds: this is how the perception of play and children in society has changed

Today, playgrounds are an unavoidable urban planning element, in large cities as well as in small towns. But has it always been this way? By observing the period in which they were born and how the playgrounds have changed over time, it is possible to understand much of the way society has developed up to the present day.that.

If previously the aim of playgrounds was above all to keep children away from the dangers of the citytoday is to spend leisure time, meet and experience moments of lightheartedness.

When are playgrounds born?

Born as “sand gardens” in Germany in 1885 actual playgrounds first appeared in United States in Boston in 1886.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, public spaces dedicated to children were a raritybut with the development of industrialization and urbanization, attention to children’s well-being has also grown.

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Texas, 1910. Image source: Reddit

The idea of ​​creating spaces designed specifically to satisfy the playful and recreational needs of childhood was born in parallel renewal of pedagogywhich at the beginning of the twentieth century becomes puerocentric and increasingly aware of the world of childhood.

What was the purpose of playgrounds in the early twentieth century?

Back then, the main purpose of the playgrounds was to keep children away from the streets and dangers of the city.

For this reason, in 1906 an association was born in the United States, the Playground Association of America (PPA) to promote budding ideas about playgrounds as a means of social reform against the deplorable conditions of children in the cities below Industrial revolution and empower them to help them become healthy and responsible citizens.

England, early 1900s. Image source: Reddit

The birth of “adventure parks”

After a few decades of rapid development is Major depression and World War II has stopped the further improvement of playgrounds for several years.

But during the dramatic period the game survived in the form of “adventure camps”. Adventure playgrounds began to appear in England in 1948.

They were run by organizations at international, national and local levels and were often built in areas that had been bombed. Here, children of all ages found building materials such as boards, ropes and woodworking tools, as well as tools for climbing trees. The aim was to develop creativity, dexterity and a taste for exploration.

The growing importance of playground safety

In the early years of the last century, play equipment was built with it galvanized steel pipes, steep stairs and iron chainsall elements that by today’s standards would be considered extremely dangerous.

Montreal, 1950s. Image source: Reddit

Over time, the old games have been replaced by equipment that is increasingly aware of children’s safety and with an attractive design.

Galvanized steel structures with rough welds and pointed tops have been gradually phased out and replaced in many cases dfor wood, plastic and painted metal.

Between the 70s and 90s of the twentieth century, the first ones were also born Playground security fees and is established increasingly restrictive guidelines to take into account all possible risks to children’s health.

The Netherlands, 1970s. Image source: Reddit

Playgrounds as environments open to all

It is between the end of the 90s and the 2000s that the most obvious leap in the transformation of playgrounds occurs. In fact, the playgrounds have come in the last twenty years developed in environments characterized by a surprising degree of integration, combining natural elements with innovative equipment.

These outdoor spaces have the explicit purpose of promote the social, emotional and physical health, not only of children, but of people of all ages. The presence of benches, picnic tables, shaded areas, plants and trees, bike paths and fitness equipment make them places frequented by the most diverse categories of people.

Seniors, athletes, mothers with children all share the desire to spend their free time enjoying the freedom and safety that modern public spaces offer in any city.

In conclusion, by observing the characteristics of a playground, we can understand a lot about a city. Its location, design and construction always tell the story history of a place and allows us to understand the cultural values ​​and social transformations in a society.

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