Helle Nebelong on designing playspaces for children

In her keynote speech to the Designs on Play conference, Helle Nebelong hits some very profound notes. Here are a few:

As I've grown up I've realised that children's world of imagination is far from the adults. They sometimes speak languages, we don't understand. We approach children with our grownup ideas, and even though one hopes to incorporate the desires of the children, one is sometimes left to wonder if it isn't subsequently the adults own presumptions on what the children want, that is used in building play areas....

When we renovate public playgrounds and ask the local residents what they want for their play area the answer today is equipment from nature. I think this is a reaction to decades of use of standardised and unimaginative playground equipment. When using materials from nature, themes are introduced, but it is the children, with their own imagination, who give colour to their play and bring things to life....

I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: When the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet. Standardisation is dangerous because play becomes simplified....

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