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The Neighbourhood Play System

A new approach to creating play in communities

The Neighbourhood Play System is an exciting approach to urban play design that places the key stakeholder – tamariki – at the centre of the process.

Tamariki are critical to the success of the Neighbourhood Play System – they can tell us where they play, how they play and what’s preventing them from playing more at school and in their neighbourhood.

Supported by Sport NZ, Neighbourhood Play System brings together a school or kura, local organisations and community groups who work together to bring to life play projects that suit the needs of their tamariki and communities.

The importance of play and child-friendly urban planning

Play allows tamariki the space to practice, learn and develop the skills they need to be active for life, including fundamental movement skills, self-directed creativity and innovation, social and emotional connections, resilience, independence, leadership and informed risk-taking.

Play can happen anywhere – it is not confined to playgrounds. Tamariki can play in neighbours’ front gardens, on footpaths, streets, and in parks, reserves and alleyways. And, like everyone else, tamariki need safe and clean streets, access to green space, clean air, things to do, the ability to get around, the freedom to see friends and somewhere to call home.

The Neighbourhood Play System lets us explore an entire neighbourhood for potential play opportunities – through the eyes of tamariki and whānau who live, work and play in the community – and plan, design and provide sustainable, quality play opportunities and play spaces in neighbourhoods.

Neighbourhood Play System blueprint and approach

The Neighbourhood Play System provides a blueprint to identify and address opportunities and barriers for tamariki to play in their school and neighbourhood.

Linking to local plans and funding opportunities, the Neighbourhood Play System blueprint looks at how to embed play elements through school grounds, footpaths, streets, alleyways, greenspaces, waterways, industrial zones, mare, churches and shops – to promote play every day.

To get started, a regional Play Lead will meet with the leaders of a school ready to take part in the Neighbourhood Play System process and follow these next steps:

  1. A school and neighbourhood mapping exercise to identify play spaces, play locations and soft infrastructure (such as drinking fountains, seating areas).
  2. Site visits to assess accessibility, conditions, natural and built hazards, traffic flow, child-friendliness and potential barriers to play.
  3. Engaging tamariki to gain a clear understanding of their play perceptions and what a child-friendly neighbourhood could look like. Taking the time to build whakawhanaugatanga with tamariki provides a shared sense of connection and purpose and creates a safe and trusted environment for tamariki to be heard.
  4. Engaging the wider community, including whānau, through face-to-face meetings and events to gather information about the opportunities and barriers to play.

All the information gathered feeds into an activation plan that shows what an ‘ideal play state’ might look like for the school and its neighbourhood, including play opportunities and recommended actions, messaging, and infrastructure to promote play for tamariki and whānau.

We would like to recognise all the neighbourhoods and schools involved in developing and sharing these reports, and thank Arup New Zealand, in particular Greer and Fleur and their work in developing the early prototypes.

Neighbourhood Play System reports

Find out more in these Neighbourhood Play System reports for a range of schools around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Aorangi School, Rotorua – Play on the Way

Positive changes have been made in the neighbourhood around Aorangi School, Rotorua, to encourage tamariki to play on the way to school. Check out the impacts resulting from a Neighbourhood Play System report and collaboration between Sport Bay of Plenty, Rotorua Lakes Council, Aorangi School and their community in this video:

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