New kind of play areas for children

Parents know this: It is not always easy to find activities for the little ones during the summer months without spending a fortune. Fortunately, there are playgrounds in the parks that are able to accommodate the restless offspring for hours. But as in any other field, there are trends, here you go away from simple swings and classic slides. Whimsy into this world of games and discoveries close to home.

Since last Friday, a new children’s park has been available in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal. The Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent park has been completely redesigned. A former parking lot has been replaced by a playground for ages 2 to 12 years. A small house welcomes the little ones, and natural-looking tree trunks invite the elderly to climb.

The layouts look like a hebertism trail, admits Marie-Ève ​​Parent, landscape architect at Lemay, the firm to which the Plateau district entrusted the redevelopment of the park. “These are games that fit better into the environment and are less guiding for the child. He is free to climb this module wherever he wants, ”she says. The site also includes water games and a training area for adults to use.

The parents we met on Wednesday said they liked the new playground. “It’s beautiful and it’s different from other parks,” said Fanny, who came with her two daughters. Another mother, however, pointed out that her youngest quickly got tired of equipment for 2-5 year olds.

Not far away, the family center at Parc La Fontaine is taking shape. The construction site is not finished and the site is fenced, but the game modules are already installed, with a tubular slide and a cable route.

Safer games

Wooden constructions, such as those in the Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent, have gained popularity in recent years due to their aesthetic qualities and their ability to harmonize with the landscape, but they have certain disadvantages, according to Michèle Dupuis. project director at ABC Récréation, a company specialized in Laval. “It is super nice, but it needs to be maintained. Since you cannot use treated wood, it presents another maintenance challenge, ”she explains, referring to the possibility of splinters. “Cities do not always have the time and money to maintain them. Therefore, plastic, aluminum or steel constructions are often preferred.

In the development of playgrounds, safety is of course the first concern. Over the last century, the playing fields have changed a lot. Gone are the days of the 1970s steel shrimp cross, kick-ass swings and other concussion-promoting things. Today, colored modules, designed with safety in mind and less dangerous, have taken over.

In eight out of ten cases, the damage is caused by a fall on the ground rather than in the modules themselves. Therefore, it is important to ensure the good absorbency of the playing surfaces. “Broken arms will always happen, but head trauma and permanent injuries, this is what we try to prevent when laying a surface during a game”, emphasizes Dupuis.

Which modules to choose? Structures for hanging or jumping, but also games that take into account other aspects of the child’s development. “We make sure that there is something for every age group. […] We go with light, moderate to expert challenges. We also want to ensure cognitive development with game panels and interactive games, ”says Marie-France Tessier, CEO of Tessier Récréo-Parc.

She argues that teens should not be forgotten. “It’s important to make room for them so they can have fun and‘ chill, ’” she says, acknowledging that not all cities offer the opportunity to create space for teens.

Broken arms will always happen, but head trauma and permanent injury are what we try to prevent when we lay a surface during a game

The vast majority of ABC Récréation’s and Tessier Récréo-Parc’s customers are municipalities. “Cities are looking for originality, something that is different,” suggests Michèle Dupuis. “If I have two parks within a radius of one or two kilometers, we try to do it differently, because families ride their bikes on the weekends and take around the parks. »

Universal accessibility

More and more children’s playgrounds are universally available, but progress is slow. “All parks should be inclusive,” maintains Michèle Dupuis. We are behind that. I have been banging my head on the nail for over 10 years. »

Marie-France Tessier agrees and acknowledges that there is still a lot of attention to be done, but she says she sees more tenders that provide universal availability and larger budgets to achieve this.

In this connection, smooth surfaces such as rubber are preferred, so that children with reduced mobility can access the modules. Some soil may also be suitable for short distances, but sand should be avoided, especially as in addition to preventing movement in a wheelchair or walker, it can attract cats who see it as a giant litter.

Still, in some cases, cities are planning accessible playgrounds, but omitting appropriate facilities around the site by retaining, for example, a staircase that one can climb up to reach the premises.

Techno is coming to the parks

Technologies are also starting to invest in children’s parks. In 2020, the municipality of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield installed an arch in Parc Lionel-Groulx equipped with an interactive electronic game designed to get young people moving. “The interesting thing about electronic games is that the choice is endless,” emphasizes Marie-France Tessier, whose company piloted the project. This ensures that this type of equipment can withstand winter conditions.

Such equipment is still deficient, but may multiply over the next few years, she predicts. Like what, even playgrounds are adapting to the technological era.

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