Free range kids
Why do our kids spend so much time indoors? Rather than an addiction to Netflix or video games, research actually suggests parents are worried about their kids playing outside in potentially unsafe environments. Discover what communities around the country are doing to change all that and bring kids back to nature.
From nipping down the street and playing with friends to riding your bike to school, from jumping in every puddle to building a tree house in the backyard, 30 years ago being outside was part and parcel of being a kid. Grazed knees, grass-stained clothes and with a bemused parent in tow, kids of yesteryear were raised outside under the sun. Yet today’s children aren’t so lucky. Busy schedules, screens and safety concerns collide to paint a very different picture of the modern day childhood.
By introducing ground-breaking initiatives like inclusive Livvi’s Place playgrounds, community sport and event programs and beautiful, safe parks that the whole family can enjoy, Lendlease is working to ensure modern kids enjoy the great outdoors just as much as their parents did when they were young.
A recent survey of more than 1,000 Australian parents looked at how life has changed for kids, communities and families. Conducted by Lendlease, in conjunction with PureProfile, the study revealed that 75% of parents would let their children play outside more if there were safe facilities available in their community. More than 70% of parents felt that playgrounds, parks and outdoors spaces were the most important amenity to have within a local community, and 82% stated that they’d like to spend more time actively playing with their kids.
Sobering numbers indeed and, unfortunately, the impact doesn’t stop there. According to social researcher Hugh Mackay, kids who don’t spend enough time outdoors are at risk of developing Nature Deprivation Syndrome, which can cause anxiety and poor concentration. That’s one of the reasons every neighbourhood needs parks and other outdoor recreational facilities but Mackay says there’s another that’s equally important: “Such spaces encourage us all to get out and play, to interact, to engage and, in the process, to heighten our sense of belonging to the local community.”
Startlingly, only one-third of Aussie parents spend time playing with their kids for 30 minutes or more every day, and less than 50% of parents spend time playing together as a whole family more than twice a week. Sixty-one per cent of survey participants said that busy schedules prevented them playing with their children more, while only 32% thought that technology is the main factor impacting active playtime. Sadly, less than half of parents said that their kids regularly play with other children in their local neighbourhood.
Clearly, it’s time for a change. With ‘screentime’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘sensory activities’ now becoming regular parts of the parental vocabulary, Lendlease is taking notice and making some big changes to create a different future.
New communities are being planned to include safe playgrounds, parks and sporting fields to put parents’ minds at ease. The planners of the Jordan Springs community in Penrith, New South Wales, have achieved this through the establishment of an inclusive, state-of-the-art Livvi’s Place playground. Named for the baby daughter of John and Justine Perkins who died from a rare disease, Livvi’s Place playgrounds are the initiative of the Touched By Olivia Foundation. Designed in consultation with Lendlease, Penrith City Council, parents of children with special needs, nearby schools, community academics and Touched by Olivia Foundation playground specialists, the Jordan Springs Livvi’s Place is an inclusive area that enables children of all ages and abilities to play side-by-side on the same equipment, ensuring full integration of children and families.
The playground features several interactive spaces, including a large water play area with six water jets, a sandpit, trampolines, swings, rockers, spinners and a performance stage and picnic areas. There are spaces for kids to spin, climb, slide, swing, jump, dig, run, sing and dance, eat and wheel – plus nearly all facilities at Livvi’s Place are wheelchair friendly. The playground’s innovative design elements have given local families a safe space to gather, creating a natural sense of belonging.
All Together Now
Outdoor recreational spaces and programs will naturally lead to getting families outdoors more, so planned Lendlease communities are also deliberately creating outdoor events and initiatives that encourage fun family outings and community engagement. The master-planned communities of Varsity Lakes on the Gold Coast and Springfield Lakes in Ipswich, Queensland, are achieving this with community sports programs that have been established in collaboration with local businesses. These kinds of partnerships enable residents of all ages to forge connections that may not otherwise have happened. Participants of all skill levels are involved, with street and village teams naturally leading to strengthened community ties. Sports like touch football, tennis, cricket and soccer are on offer and have seen a huge sign up of members indicating that if you build it, they will indeed come.
Another Lendlease initiative designed to bring neighbours together is taking place at the master-planned community of Blakes Crossing in Adelaide, South Australia. The new parents and kids group, formed with the support of Lendlease and Playgroup SA, provides weekly sessions for first-time parents to connect with other families in the growing area. This enables locals to create community ties and foster a sense of belonging. Sonia Ziaee, who lives in Blakes Crossing and manages the group on a voluntary basis, said the initiative was a great way to promote community engagement. “It provides an opportunity for our family and others to come together and get to know each other. The kids look forward to it each week,” she says. “We’re creating a safe and fun environment for residents and their toddlers plus encouraging healthy relationships and social skills.”
Eight-five per cent of parents wish they could spend more time actively playing with their kids, so planned communities are now also filled with lush, green foliage and extensive parklands. Parks are designed to incorporate iconic and memorable elements for which the community can be uniquely known, like water features and lakes.
Sustainability and enhancing the natural beauty of the area was a key part of Lendlease’s community planning strategy for Darlington Parklands in Yarrabilba, Queensland. The six-hectare super park features an arbour and wetlands with a boardwalk that creates a gateway to Yarrabilba’s greater open space network. This helps to conserve and showcase the natural beauty of the environment as well as native flora and fauna. Designed to encourage kids and families to explore together, the park provides a variety of recreational activities with something for everyone. The park includes a state-of-the-art playground, outdoor gym, basketball half-court, 30-metre twin flying fox, climbing dome, events space and multi-swing. Free for all to enjoy, the park is designed to help a new generation of kids and parents to reconnect with each other.
With an appetite for change and a focus on sculpting green, connected environments, Lendlease planned communities are at the forefront of change – literally sowing the seeds for a more active, outdoor childhood for their smallest residents.
At the forefront of change
From interactive parks, to sporting fields and walking trails, find out how residents and families from Lendlease communities across Australia are enjoying the great outdoors.