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Building the right space for play
To a child, a playground means a lot of things. It is not just about playing on the different pieces of equipment, it’s also about a fun way to learn life skills such as social interaction and sharing.
On the playground, a child can move through various problem solving and developmental skills, and to this end, Nigel Brizan, managing director of Wi Playground Limited (WiPl), is firmly convinced that most of the playgrounds that presently exist in T&T are outdated and should be upgraded so as to offer a more holistic experience to the child.
Wi Playground Limited is the authorised local dealer for the US based company Game Time (GT) which has been one of America’s leading playground manufacturers for over 80 years.
“It is not about making money, it’s about what’s best for the child. The child has to develop on the playground. Hand-eye coordination, balancing are just a few ways the child can develop,” Brizan said.
Safety is one of the most important factors that needs to be emphasised when installing any playground, and Brizan’s play areas guard against many hazards including the impact of falls, intrusion and head entrapment.
Each of the parks is equipped with safety zones to allow children to exit each piece of equipment safely.
“For example, if the swing is eight feet high then I need to build that playground with a safety zone twice the height of the swing which is 16 feet,” he explained.
Likewise, there is a fall zone of six feet away from the slides.
Also, none of the equipment in the playparks exceeds a height of eight feet because, according to Brizan, there is nothing that can be done to prevent a child from breaking bones if they fall from that height.
Presently, only a few places in Trinidad have been outfitted with the improved playparks. They include the San Fernando Hill, the Kids Campus, Moruga; the Gulf View Community Centre; Nipdec, Olton Road, Arima and Charis Works Christian Academy, Orange Grove Road, Tacarigua.
WiPl boasts that its playgrounds are up to international standards and are not installed on hard surfaces such as grass or concrete, but instead on recycled rubber tiles, engineered woodchip fibre, rubber granules, pea gravel and other safer materials.
One of the most important aspects of the playpark is its “inclusive” element, which, with the implementation of ramps and other features, allows disabled children to also enjoy the facilities.
He noted that many of the traditional playgrounds do not cater for the handicapped and some may have difficulty entering the grounds and using the equipment.
“Even though the child on a wheelchair would not be able to go down the slide, we build things on the playground that the disabled child can use so he or she is still engaged.”
The new playparks are constructed based on seven principles that embody the WiPL/GT goals—Be Fair, Be Included, Be Smart, Be Independent, Be Safe, Be Active and Be Comfortable.
“Inclusive playgrounds make a fundamental statement about a community’s social values and belief in every child’s right to play.
“Children should be given equal opportunity to education, in an atmosphere conducive to learning.”
When all children, normal, gifted and those with special needs are treated equally, we enhance the hidden curriculum of treating one another with love and respect.”
And how much would such a playpark cost? The answer is anywhere from US$4,000 to upwards of US$100,000.
“Our playparks can take any shape and form and there are so many pieces of equipment from which to choose so the only real limit is your imagination,” Brizan said, adding that the organisation can also create customised, themed play spaces.
WiPl’s playparks however are for commercial use and not recommended for the average home owner.
As an educational tool, the possibilities are endless, and each playpark can be constructed so as to incorporate a wide variety of obstacles and physical education programmes for children of different ages.
“In today’s society everything is being upgraded and the way kids used to play long ago is not how they play now.”
“The playground is a centrepiece in the community.
“A slide and a swing alone will not do because the playground must capture the imagination of the child.”
“Nowadays, children stay inside and play on their electronic devices and don’t even interact much with other kids because there are no centrepieces to create that play environment for the child.”
Acknowledging the need for unity among our citizens, which he insists must start at an early age, Brizan asked: “If we keep the children apart now, what can we expect to happen in the years to come?
For examples of playground programmes like Fit Kid and Play On, visit the Web site http://www.gametime.com/resources/fitness-programs/play-on/. The Play On program uses balancing, brachiating (overhead climbing), climbing, sliding, spinning and swinging to fight childhood obesity and promote fitness and skills development.