Article published on 2 November 2023

Australia, with its vast landscapes and diverse communities, is a land of adventure and wonder. Amidst the bustling cities and serene suburbs, there exists a common thread that binds people together – local playgrounds, the heart of communities. These vibrant and dynamic spaces, often overlooked in the grand scheme of urban development, hold an invaluable place in the hearts of Australian communities. They are more than just slides and swings; they are the very essence of togetherness, enrichment, and joy.

Local Playgrounds - The heart of communities

Playground hierarchy

Most Councils have established a playspace category hierarchy, offering a structured classification system for their playspaces. This system considers the range of areas they serve, the appropriate playspace features and experiences, preferred site locations, and expected duration of visits. A typical playspace stategy will include:

  • Destination playspace – Unique experiences that attract visitors from near and far for an all day stay with supporting infrastructure and facilities (parking, picnic areas, shelter, toilets…)
  • Regional playspaces – Greatest variety of equipment and largest space that include additional facilities, such as parking, and other activities like skate parks or half courts. They service residents within a radius of 5-10km but also attract visitors across the region.
  • District playspaces – Medium sized to service residents within a 1-2km radius and co-located with other facilities for a stay longer than 2 hours.
  • Local playspaces – They are part of local parks and cater to surrounding residents within a 400-800m radius for a short stay.

Even though destination, regional and district playspaces get most of the attention and the glory of winning industry awards, the importance of smaller local playspaces should not be overlooked – they are the backbone of fun and socialising for local communities.

As a mother of a lively toddler, I value the chance to visit nearby playgrounds, allowing my active son to expend his abundant energy and meet new little playmates. It also provides me with a welcome break from our apartment and an opportunity to enjoy some fresh air. I do wish that the playgrounds in our local area were more tailored to babies and toddlers, eliminating the need for me to drive elsewhere in search of a play area with a wider range of age-appropriate activities. Nonetheless, my little boy always has a blast on the nearby baby swing and small climbing unit.

Elodie Pellicano, Marketing Executive and Mum of Adrien
Baby playing with sand

Fostering Social Bonds

Local playgrounds are where community members become friends and connect. Places that let the community escape their daily struggles, have fun and bond as a family and community. They serve as meeting points for parents, grandparents, children, and carers, bringing together people from various walks of life. It’s a place where children learn how to negotiate, and cooperate, laying the foundations for valuable social skills. Moreover, it’s a hub for multicultural and intergenerational exchange. A space providing an opportunity for community members to bond, exchange, reset and connect.

Parenting young children is fun but it can also be very tiring, and a little lonely at times if you are the only adult at home. When everything went pear-shaped at our place I often took our two young children for a short walk to the local playground. Playing on the swings, zipping down the slide and playing “shops” in the playhouse often did the trick. We could reconnect in a fun way, have a laugh and release some tension. If there was someone else at the park we could also have a chat and socialise together, which was reaffirming for everyone.

Madeleine Walding, Commercial Manager and Mum of Anna & Bethany
Children playing with a Hiphop

Nurturing Child Development

Playgrounds offer abundant physical and cognitive benefits to children. Climbing, swinging, and running around not only keeps children physically active but also supports their motor skills development. These spaces are open canvases for imagination, encouraging creativity as children explore and invent new games. Furthermore, they facilitate learning about risk assessment and problem-solving, all of which contribute to a child’s intellectual growth.

Supporting physical activity

As Australia faces the challenge of childhood obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, local playgrounds have become critical tools in promoting physical activity. They provide a safe environment for children to be active while having fun. Moreover, parents can join in the fun, strengthening the bond with their children and other community members while staying fit themselves. These parks also offer the benefits of connecting with nature and simply being outdoors in the fresh air and natural light; a great way to relieve the build-up of stress in daily life. The health benefits of these spaces contribute to the physical and mental well-being of the whole community.

As a family of four residing in a compact inner-city apartment in Melbourne, we found ourselves yearning for a nearby play area, given the limited space for the kids to run and no lush green grass beneath our feet. The significance of having a playspace within easy reach became increasingly apparent.

Our children were in their preschool years, a time when their energy and curiosity were boundless. Taking them to the local playgrounds not only allowed them to make social connections but also taught them valuable life lessons, such as taking turns, sharing, and the importance of perseverance when mastering challenges like the monkey bars. Through their experiences, they learned that the sense of achievement is well worth the effort.

As a parent, this meant that I had to rediscover the joy of play and engage with my children in new and meaningful ways. This shift in perspective altered my life’s priorities and values.

Playgrounds served as gathering spots for other families, where playdates and children’s birthday parties brought us together. These spaces allowed children to be themselves, running freely and embracing their true nature.

A local playground is more than just a physical space for children to play; it’s a crucial resource that contributes to their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development.

As both a mother and a landscape architect, I deeply appreciate the benefits that Australian playgrounds offer to my children, myself, and our community.

Nadia Stojan, Landscape Architect and Mum of Louise and Luke
Nadia with Louise and Luke at a local playground

Local legends of play 

Local playgrounds are important community assets that are not just colourful distractions; they are the heart of Australian communities. They offer a space for human connection while fostering health and well-being, child development, and activity within the community.  These local escapes play a crucial role in shaping the future of Australia, one swing set at a time.

See the local kids in action at the local playspaces:

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