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Conference paper, 2009

The user perspective in playground management

Jansson, Märit


Management of public outdoor playgrounds concerns playgrounds, users and managers. Management organizations commonly include three activity levels: political (policy-making), tactical (planning, design) and operational (construction, maintenance). Traditional playgrounds provided in conventional ways are criticised for being of little use to children. Participatory methods have been developed to improve environments to better suit user preferences, but are often focused on planning and design issues (tactical level). Here, examples from three case studies are used to explore the need for participation at the operational level. Two case studies of small towns included interviews with park workers (operational level), group interviews with school children and questionnaires to preschool groups and parents of preschool children. The third case study, a municipal playground management organization where users had participated in revising the playground provision, included interviews with employees within tactical and operational levels. Different perspectives on playground use emerged among user groups and between park workers and users. Children value playgrounds for possibilities to activities and to find and modify ‘own’ places. What children like to do in the playground is similar to operational level work. Adult understanding of these preferences is however limited. The participation process was perceived as positive among managers, although users’ ideas were surprisingly conventional. Some participation had been in construction, although mainly in planning and design. The initiated communication with users appeared difficult to maintain. Involving users more in operational level activities can be a way to make playgrounds more meaningful for children and to keep a dialog with users

Published in


Power to the Children! The 1st Asia Pacific International Conference on Child-Friendly Cities (CFC, UNICEF) & GRowing Up In Cities (GUIC, UNESCO) Proceedings