Natalia Krysiak & Tanya Vincent
Copenhagen-style, staffed play yards in urban neighbourhoods for families raising children without backyards.
A Play Yard is a new type of public facility in dense neighbourhoods for the daily recreation of children (0-16 years) and their families: a backyard for families without their own.
Sydney was a global pioneer of play yards in the 1930s until depopulation of the inner-city in the ’70s. Today, with 30% of apartments occupied by households with children and the top areas being Parramatta, Liverpool and Bankstown, play yards are vital again for Sydney families. Play Yards deliver great public space by filling the gap between apartment gardens – too quiet or manicured; playgrounds – too sterile or lonely, and regional facilities – too far away.
Play yards are a safe environment, offering loose parts (bikes, scooters, balls, skates and cubby materials), community events and parental support networks managed by two staff. Children over eight are welcome to use independently; children under seven with an adult. A bounded, family only place managed by trusted staff within a safe walking route of home is transformational, overcoming the parental fears currently limiting children’s independent use of public space.
Spaces are 1500-4000sqm (stand-alone or corner of a larger park) with areas for games, bikes, construction play and socialising with a storage shed, toilets and all-weather room. Play Yards are messy, low maintenance spaces unlikely to win design awards: just like normal backyards!
Just as Sydney adapted public space for dog parks, communal gardens and men’s sheds for adults, Play Yards will create a better life for Sydneysiders raising children.