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Playscape new twist on old playground

Don Fennell   Jun-05-2018

An upgrade on the classic playground, the new playscape at Richmond’s Thompson Community Centre is already proving to be popular with users.

Photo courtesy Thompson Community Centre

The playscape at Richmond’s Thompson Community Centre represents a new twist on an old concept.

An upgrade on the classic playground, the revamped space was completed in mid-December and is already enhancing the experience of pre-schoolers in the Rompers program.


“We were able to re-use several components that had been added over the past two or three years,” says community centre president Julie Halfnights. “The new space has plantings that attract tactile exploration, as well as space where the children will plant seeds and watch them grow.”

Representing a return to nature, the playscape model is growing in popularity. Breaking from the need for specific play equipment, the shaping of the landscape encourages play and interaction. The playscapes also offer a wide range of open-ended play options that allow people to be creative.

“We’ve had lots of interest from the public about access, so we expect the new area will attract attendees that may not otherwise have visited,” says Halfnights.

Bookings for partiesup to 50 guests are $160, with availability Saturdays and Sundays from June 16 to Sept. 16. Afternoons and evenings are open free to the public.

The idea for a playscape at Thompson originated at the community centre’s February 2017 planning day. It was then worked on by its children’s and facilities committee.

“Terra Nova Nature School (TNNS) changed our view of everything,” says Halfnights. “As we hear increasingly, research about the value of time in nature spurred us forward too.”

The playscape design is said to offer a wide range of benefits, both physical and developmental. It is also believed to decrease bullying and injury rates, while helping increase focus and attention spans and social skills.

The TNNS and Rompers pre-school instructors share their educational sessions, “and the wonderful experiences they've shown the Rompers instructors have inspired them to get outside more ,” says Halfnights. “As we started the design, they wanted to provide a little bit of what happens with the TNNS students for their pre-school classes.”

Funds for the playscape (the total cost of the project was $258,000, with a $8,600 child care capital grant provided by the City of Richmond toward a new fence) came from Thompson's reserves, accumulated over the last decade from the excess of annual revenues over expenses. As a not-for-profit, the community centre strives for a 'net zero', but with full classes and thrifty staff and volunteers is, most years, able to set aside funds for such projects.

The playscape is fully-equipped with an outdoor classroom, sandboxes, playhouses, benches, tables, a slide and play structure.

“We have a long history of contributing to play spaces in our adjacent and nearby parks. but we've rarely paid for the whole thing, as we did in this case,” says Halfnights, who is thrilled at the outcome of this project.

“It looks amazing and the kids absolutely love playing there. When you walk by you see nothing but smiles.”

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