Monday, 20 October 2014

Parklek... Swedish manned play-spaces

Today the children and I went to Björnstraädgård... a parklek (park-play) on the south island... if you check out my pages you will see there is an option to look at parks and play in Stockholm, I have shared images of Björnsträdgård there, if you are interested...

 While I was there I saw the following sign
where the history of the park was explained... when I first saw this and read that "there parks should be so much fun that no child or youth would want to keep to the streets and squares" I wondered if it was because the adutls did not like them there... and wanted to control them... it could well be... veven though when you read the brief history below you will see there were concerns about adults abusing the children, some 20 years earlier...

A history of parkleks (from Wikipedia... so no great research done here)

A Parklek - playground in Stockholm.
The  playspace is staffed by trained personnel. If it is unmanned, they are called a lekpark =playground.

The first parklek in Sweden started as charities. The very first was probably in Norrköping, where a playground was opened in 1914 on the initiative of Maria Moberg (who along with her ​​sister Ellen also launched the country's first kindergarten - in 1899). 

The first major investment in playground activities came two years later, in 1916, in Stockholm. The journalist Gerda Marcus saw how many children were running around on the city's yards and streets while their parents worked, and how they became easy prey for adults who abuse children. One of her social projects for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet started playground with park employees in Vasa Park (I will be taking my children here next week... it is the park next to where Astrid Lindgren lived). The first day was on 14 May 1916 where 100 young children came to the park.

The modern parklek, with municipal employees, was introduced by Stockholm urban gardener Osvald Almqvist. The first parklek was tested in 1936 in Observatorielunden and Björnsträdgarden with great success, and two years later was 14 more parkleks were added. In 1940 this was extended to a year round availability and not just during the summers.  

In 1980, there were at most 200 staffed parkleks in Stockholm. Two of  three parkleks have been closed since then and in 2008 there were only 54 left. Until the 1980s, each child in Stockholm have a maximum of 50 meters from the door to a toddler playground and 500m to a staffed playground. Distance Rule 500 meters is now changed to 1000 meters. 

There is also a film that you can watch about parks in Stockholm from the 1970's - I have translated the Swedish text, so you know what it is about... but even in the seventies there is a concern that children mught harm themselves when fact there are many arguments that sound very similar to today's "fight" for children's right to free play...

film from 1970 on Stockholms Parklek -
The film's announcer text is structured as a conversation between three people. A gently critical and questioning mum is not sure that the idea of ​​playground activities and its pedagogy fits her son Klas Gustav. Her questions are answered by a woman and a man who argue for the development parkleks offer -   the meeting of children of different backgrounds. At one point the man says: "It's a shame about Klas Gustav - kids need this stuff to tighten all external and internal organs.".

It's Street office park department who ordered the film - and who organized the educational playgrounds in Stockholm. The film is told proudly that "Stockholm is ahead, not just of other cities in Sweden, but throughout Europe. People come from all countries to collect inspiration." It is emphasized that the parks department has trained people working with "people doing research in the child's behavior." The philosophy is that children should learn from each other and "doing stuff themselves without adults."

1970, Stockholm 160 playgrounds and according to the narrator was the goal was to basically every child would have a playground within four hundred meters.

So all of this has got me thinking... 
are playgrounds for children - really for children - or is this just another way to control childhood? I haven't really thought this through at all... it just a wild question that I want to mull over...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds really quite interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing at the Outdoor Play Party.