A natural playground with musical instruments Child's Play Music

http://childsplaymusic.com.au/ & http://www.facebook.com/ChildsPlayMusicPerth. A video of a new natural playground with musical instruments at a school in Perth, Western Australia.

First: my apologies for the wind noise - even with a windsock on the mic the 20 knot wind is very loud. I hope you can hear me and the instruments.

The playground was designed and installed by Natural Play Environments, a Perth-based company with many years experience designing playgrounds that feature musical instruments. It's been designed for children aged 4 to 7 and it offers appropriate challenge and risk for the age-group.

It's around 120 metres long by 20 metres wide and runs alongside a large open grassed area. The playground is situated in a section of remnant bushland and is very attractive. It features a long path that winds through the trees and shrubs and the path is sectioned into three areas each filled with a different material - two types of fine gravel and one section of white beach sand. I love the way that this playground is an organic extension of the play opportunities found in natural bush; children need and crave contact with the natural world and this playground supports that.

The equipment is nestled into the bushland and is all custom built. As well as climbing equipment and a slide there are a variety of sensory play, imaginative play and science play activities. I particularly like the sand wheel (pour sand through the top and it turns a wheel before pouring through a sifting grid which traps and large materials for viewing), the sand funnel pendulum for making sand patterns, and the large pulley/chute set up which allows children to lift sand and objects in a sling. The limestone wall with coloured glass windows is very attractive and interesting.

I also particularly like the way the playground is designed to allow children to hide in bushes and give privacy while maintaining safety. The playground encourages children to take reasonable risks through climbing branches and equipment. Risky play is an essential part of childhood learning - if you don't get the opportunity to take risks you never learn what is safe and what isn't. While the playground encourages risk it is carefully designed to remove real hazards where a child might get badly hurt.

There are five musical instruments: a jarrah tongue drum, a lithophone (stone xylophone), a set of tuned cow bells, a set of aluminium tubular bells, and a PVC thongophone (AKA slapophone; slap tubes). All the instruments sound good and are well-designed and rugged, although I noticed that one of the keys of the lithophone has broken (probably a fracture at the point it is fixed). No doubt this will be replaced.

My thanks to the school for permission to video the playground. It was a condition of that permission that I must not identify the school or video any children, so please don't ask me which school it is.

Alec Duncan
Child's Play Music