How holiday parks are harnessing play

27/6/18

How to create play spaces that keep visitors returning time and again.

Ben Harbottle, Sales Director at Timberplay gives holiday park operators a few tips for designing effective play areas.

All play areas are not created equally. There is a commonly held misconception that the more pieces of kit you have, the better the play area. As advocates of a holistic approach to children’s play, Timberplay believe there are many other considerations aside for Holiday Park owners to think about if they want to create play areas that promote social play, help boost visitor numbers and encourage repeat bookings.

Surfacing

Play surfacing can take a hefty chunk of the budget for any play area, but it can often deliver nothing in terms of play value. Wet pour and rubber mulch are often the go to surfaces as they are widely believed to be maintenance free and durable as well as satisfying the need to provide a safe and soft surface to prevent accidents. However, they are not as weather proof as they may seem, frost reduces the impact absorbency, wet weather can cause the surface to be slippy and they are also prone to developing mossy patches. Moreover, it only takes one determined child and a stick to compromise the integrity of the material enabling children to chip and kick away at the surface.

At Timberplay we always promote the use of loose fill surfacing, wood chip, pea gravel and sand being ideal. Not only do they fulfil the requirements for impact absorbency, they also deliver masses of play value. If you can get your surface to contribute to the play value within the site it will reduce the demand on the products. Sand, in particular, is an endlessly engaging playable resource, entertaining many children at any one time who naturally play together to dig and transport the sand. This is enhanced further if one of the playground products is a sand play piece, for example a Building Site, or Sand Transportation System. There is also the option of adding cost effective play resources, buckets, spaces or sieves.

The play value within sand will also increase manifold if the play area also includes an element of waterplay, this could be as small as a standard Playground Pump, or even a tap.

Of course sand will require some maintenance, some brushing up, and topping up at regular intervals, but we believe it is worth it for the undeniable play value it releases.

Landscaping

Playful landscaping not only goes to create a pleasant environment for play, but certain features present excellent opportunities for play. Mounds and tunnels are both features which delight children across a surprisingly wide age range. Some play spaces make very good use of logs and plank bridges which can span the mounds.

Hardy long grasses and sensory planting can also add character and playability to a space, allowing opportunity for swishing and hiding, and adding colour and aroma.

To theme or not to theme

Many visitor attractions and holiday parks now make the decision to theme their play space. Whereas this can seem like a great idea for adding character to a play space it can often take a significant amount of the budget and not deliver much play value in return. Play value is all about the unique play experiences a child can have with each play element or feature. Themed pieces often fulfil the requirement of looking great, sometimes delivering great excitement to parents and children alike, but however they do not provide the same level of play experience, are likely to stimulate children for less time than more open ended play offerings. In principle theming could be great, but ensure that it is not to the detriment of the play value within a site.

Is bespoke the answer?

Bespoke play pieces can look great and give a play space a unique identity. However bespoke is likely to be expensive, the investment going into creating a one off, rather than using a play product that has a proven track record in engaging and stimulating children. The challenges within a bespoke piece may not match those of a stock product, but the real headache for managers and operators can be when it comes to repairs and maintenance. All play products will require maintenance and repairs from time to time, but trying to source the correct piece of timber to replace a specific beam in a bespoke piece can be very problematic, sometimes rendering the product out of action until the elusive piece is located. Timberplay specifically has over 700 products within their catalogue, a wide enough range to create unique combinations for any space – but with the confidence that all products are created with the child at the heart of the design.

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