What are they?
Playing is a vital activity for children. It is essential for their physical, emotional, social and intellectual development. Through games, children express themselves, communicate and discover what surrounds them while interacting with their environment. It is therefore necessary for children to have the necessary facilities for playing in public areas.
Barcelona has more than 800 public areas for children. These areas are located on parks, gardens and squares. They have different dimensions and forms and have been designed according to general criteria based on children's safety, promotion of sociability, a fair geographical distribution and standardisation of quality.
Recreation areas for children are indicated with signposts, which include its usage and the age of the end user of the game facilities. Thus, the areas are classified for children from 0 to 5 years, 6 to 12 and over 12 years. Some areas are mixed and include facilities for the first two age groups. Barcelona also has accessible and integrationist recreation areas for children, which are available for all children regardless of their abilities.
Safety and accessability
Lately, European bodies have studied and regulated the recreation areas for children and their safety aiming to ensure the right to play and to avoid as far as possible accidents and other incidents which might jeopardize children's integrity.
The "Technical Specifications for Parks and Gardens concerning Design, Implementation and Reception of Recreation Areas for Children" conforms to UNE-EN 1176 (1 to 7) standards on safety of game facilities. It also follows the UNE-EN 1177 standards on safety conditions of shock absorbing base layers.
How are they?
Game facilities in recreation areas for children are selected considering the possibility of offering individual or group involvement for children. They are not overly figurative in order not to customize or identify the game with specific messages. The elements are chosen so that they promote chidren's imaginative potential and to give personality and content to the game.
Games for all children —weather boys or girls— are promoted in order to integrate those who have difficulties. Special attention is taken to avoid those games which can promote somehow aggressiveness and violence. The dimensions and degree of difficulty of the games vary depending on the different age groups for which they are intended: up to 5 years, from 6 to 12 and over 12 years.
Up to 5 years old
Sandbpits are important elements in these areas, especially for the youngest ones. It is a place where children can quietly sit on the ground and play with the sand with a shovel, a bucket or just with their hands.
Besides, there are swings, slides, see-saws, board games and water games. There are also hiding places similar to small houses, shops and castles, whose design is not figurative and favours role-playing games.
From 6 to 12 years old
When the child is about 6 years old, he starts to be daring, so active games and climbing have a big role. As in the areas for younger children, here there are (much bigger) swings and slides too, as well as see-saws.
Alongside these classic game facilities, another elements for climbing or hanging from different heights are important too: mast pyramid net play structures for climbing or wooden structures with ropes for hanging from. In these areas, there are other games which include handling elements, such as drawing games in vertical panels and music games.
At this age it is important to begin to foster a sense of cooperation. Therefore, there are group games which promote the sense of team since each participant has to perform a role which complements the others in other to make the game work. Two good examples of these facilities are water games located in Nou Barris Central Park and Joan Brossa Park.
Over 12 years old
This is the age when children like risk and overcoming challenges. We need, therefore, game elements which respond to these interests and promote the spirit of improvement.
Games are more complex than in other age groups and require more strength, energy and balance. Thus, movement and height of game elements determines the activities in these play areas, where there are games which allow to develop physical abilities.
Accessibility and integration
These play areas have been designed to be shared by all children without exception. Their main characteristics are accessibiity, integration and socialisation and their facilities are attractive to all users regardless of their abilities. In these areaswhat is different becomes normal and enriching.
Accessible and integrationist play areas are approximately 500 m2 and are located in particularly remote areas or areas protected from vehicle traffic. They are built on flat fields with very small slopes which have easy access ramps.
All these areas have seating areas with space for wheelchairs. Accessible public transport stops are nearby, as well as reserved parking areas which are completely accessible.
Games are distributed taking into account the need to promote experimentation and relationship between children. Therefore, the selected games are the ones which offer more possibilities of use on the basis of different skills.
Some of the games are handling games, board games, those which involve sensory experiences and "multi-games", which work at different levels and adapt to the abilities and needs of each user.
D'altra banda, la necessitat d'introduir determinats elements per a infants discapacitats pot esdevenir un joc compartit. Així, la guia a terra en el recorregut de joc per als nens invidents esdevé un "joc de traça" per als nens sense aquesta discapacitat, i la presència del braille pot convertir-se en un joc de descobriment d'aquest llenguatge.
Quant als jocs més tradicionals, estan dotats d'elements que els fan accessibles, com és el cas dels gronxadors de cistella o els tobogans, que disposen d'una rampa per accedir-hi.
Maintaining recreation areas
Maintenance of recreation areas for children includes several efforts and its frequency depends on the needs of each specific task. In order to guarantee the quality of these areas, preventive inspections are conducted three times a week to detect abnormalities and damages in game facilities and fences surrounding playing areas.
There is a corrective maintenance work three times a week. They consist of repairing the damage detected in preventive inspections. In case of danger, a team resolves it immediately. Besides, waste, abandoned objects, accumulated sand in the games areas and graffiti are removed a minimum of five times a week.
Airing and disinfecting sandpits
This task is carried out every two months and involves loosening and leveling the sand, which is disinfected by water vapor at 90ºC.
It is carried out every three months and aims at ensuring safety of play areas. It consists of leveling game areas, checking securing systems and the state of shock absorbing base layers, as well as detecting open-air foundations and possible signs of wear of materials.
Every year 50% of sand in play areas is replaced and 40% of game facilities is painted.