Urban planners urge for safe playgrounds

2013-09-16 12:14:15 Students plays football at their school's playground during the first day of school on September 16, 2013 at a primary school at Bayrampasa district in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE

Research suggests that unstructured free play is critical to healthy child development. but there are no guarantees that any play area is truly safe. Therefore, urban planner Oksan Tandogan from Istanbul concluded that Turkish playgrounds need to be safe and child-friendly to ensure well-being of children in Turkey. 

According to Oksan Tandogan, an urban planner for Istanbul, children need spaces that allow them to experiment, explore, and discover things around their environment.

Adult controlled playgrounds

“The home is crucial. A child wants to have the freedom to play at home but very often parents send their children to play outside so they can get on with their daily activities such as cleaning the house undisturbed,” said Tandogan.

However, providing our children with nurturing environments is more of a challenge in today’s world than it has ever been. Many children do not live in homes with yards and gardens to explore or in neighbourhoods where they can spend hours playing outside.

“Playgrounds offer children the opportunity to develop their physical, emotional and social skills. Sadly though, the designed play areas in Istanbul usually fail to meet the expectations, imaginations and needs of a child and are often being designed and determined by adults,” says Tandogan.

Children value unstructured play 

Free unstructured play helps children build a wide range of skills necessary for success in school and out, from making friends and negotiating to problem solving and thinking creatively.

“Local boys play football on the streets despite the risk of being injured in a traffic incident. Also they play in car parks instead of playgrounds, which are nearby. The girls play in the streets, sidewalks or on the stairs. In the urban areas, many children play on the hills. It shows that children prefer to create their own playing areas and there is a high level of children’s independent mobility,” said Tandogan.

“However, in a large city like Istanbul, the children are far from being safe due to heavy traffic. Therefore, creating meaningful public spaces and safe playgrounds for children is vital. Similarly, there is also a need to exert pressure on local governments to make existing public spaces more inclusive,” concluded Tandogan.

Author: Marketa Vesela

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