Raising children is a rewarding yet challenging experience for many parents. One of the key challenges in our modern world is getting kids away from the screens for their health and wellbeing. How? Centennial Parklands is the answer.
Below is an interesting article recently published on The Conversation website regarding the effects of too much “screen time” on kids.
It also proposes a simple but effective answer – get outdoors. The article also looks at the benefits of self-directed and risk-taking play in an outdoor environment.
Parents are often told they need to get their kids outside to play to combat childhood obesity – which is more widespread than ever. But outside play isn’t only important in combating childhood obesity. And too much “screen time” does more than just make our kids fat.
From a psychological perspective, children get a kick out of feeling effective and in control of themselves in their surroundings. (Remember the look of glee on your child’s face when they took their first steps, mastered a puzzle, first kicked a footy?) Most also prefer to exercise free will in choosing activities that appeal to them.
These two crucial factors in building psychological well-being are referred to by psychologists as “competence” and “autonomy”.
Providing play opportunities that increase physical activity, alongside promoting both competence and autonomy, will result in genuine skill development, as well as creating an enhanced sense of self-efficacy and psychological well-being.
Sounds so simple! Enter the barrier to providing said play opportunities: the fearful and risk-averse parent, strongly backed by Australia’s litigious compensation schemes.
But are parental fears of harm and injury justified? The notoriously reckless researcher Professor Paul Tranter introduced children to a “playground” filled with ropes, 44-gallon drums, milk crates and all manner of certain death traps. The result? A reduction in fighting and bullying and, interestingly, an increase in the social status of the creative kids.
Not to be outdone, our Kiwi cousins banned playground “rules” in several primary schools. Kids were allowed to climb trees, negotiate play and choose their own adventure. Their results? A similar reduction in bullying, as well as a drop in vandalism and serious injuries. I repeat, a drop in serious injuries.
Why? Because the kids are learning self-discipline and self-control, taking personal responsibility for their own risk and ability evaluation, thereby increasing autonomy and competence.
In stark comparison, what are we doing in Australia? Imposing increasingly absurd safety “interventions” like banning kids from doing cartwheels, which drives down both autonomy and competence in one fell swoop.
At a seminar of landscape architects I recently attended, we had the obligatory presentation from the fun police, trawling through the meticulous safety standards for playgrounds in Australia. He noted a key difference between Australia and New Zealand is litigation (or lack thereof) in response to playground/sporting injury (long story short, NZ residents are covered by an insurance scheme that doesn’t rely on lawsuits). He quipped that it was no wonder the All Blacks are such an unbeatable rugby team:
If you can survive a New Zealand playground, you can go onto achieve anything.
The architects were particularly interested in the benefits of nature play. Why? Because, as yet, you can’t sue a tree. Therefore nature remains the last bastion of genuine challenge; where children can test their effectiveness (competence) in a real rather than a sanitised, hyper-protected and restricted play environment.
If we withhold from our children the ability to take risks, evaluate consequences, innovate and solve problems in the face of challenge or failure, how on earth can we expect them to develop into effective, successful adults?
We should realise the damage we are doing to our kids by stifling and sanitising every possible play experience, as well as the legal processes we have in place to support this.
If not for me, if not for your child, at least for the future of Australian rugby!
Rachael Sharman does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
World Parks Day is held on 20 September across the globe. What is it, and why do parks need a ‘day’?
A few years ago Centennial Parklands hosted a visit by Steve Coleman, Executive Director of Washington Parks and People. During a talk he said: ‘Cities without parks have no limbs to play, no lungs to breathe, no mind to wonder, no heart to live, and no spirit to soar.’
These words perfectly capture the role of Centennial Parklands.
On World Parks Day
World Parks Day is a day for us all to pause for a moment to recognise the role parks play in our everyday life:
Urban parks and green spaces have been where people from all societies and cultures have congregated to celebrate, mourn, reflect, connect and enjoy the achievements of their communities.
Urban parks educate, protect, are venues for recreation, are means by which we connect with nature and connect with our neighbours and communities in modern and urbanised society.
They replenish our air and water and they protect or provide safe havens in cities from natural events. They define what a civil society is and they define what a liveable city is.
What does this mean for us?
In short, we need parks.
But parks also need us.
Without people, parks are incomplete. They would simply be spaces or voids between the life around them. Instead, people complete the picture. They add a vibrancy, a colour, a life to these spaces. We are connected to these places physically, sensorily and emotionally. At its opening, Centennial Park was dubbed: “the People’s Park”. It was then, it still is today.
Want to celebrate World Parks Day?
We don’t need planned celebrations, World Parks Day should simply be your excuse to get outdoors and reconnect with parks and nature around you. How?
Here’s some inspiration for you…
Take a walk…
Have a ride…
Pack a picnic…
Choose a side.
Spot a bird…
Consider a run…
Walk a dog…
Aren’t parks fun!
With apologies to anyone with any poetic inclination.
Today’s blog post challenge was to write about a painted line. Challenge? Well, no actually, it’s an interesting story about the painted blue line around Grand Drive in Centennial Park.
If you’ve visited Centennial Park in Sydney you’ve probably noticed a fading blue painted line on the roadway. Maybe you’ve wondered about what it is and why it follows the path it does on the road (or maybe you’ve not even noticed it – but hopefully now you will!).
The Thin Blue Line – a Sydney Olympics legacy
The ‘thin blue line’ in Centennial Park is a legacy of 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Centennial Park was part of the Olympic Marathon course. The course wound through some of the city’s most picturesque locations. It started in North Sydney, crossed the Harbour Bridge, passed through the city, headed east to Centennial Park and south to Kingsford. Returning through the city and west to Sydney Olympic Park, competitors finish in the Olympic Stadium.
Click the image to see a larger version of the Sydney Olympic Marathon course (image from www.coolrunning.com.au)
Shortly after, in late October, the Paralympics marathon came through the course (there were in fact seven different men’s events and one women’s event as part of the program).
More than 5,000 people came to line the Olympic Marathon route in Centennial Park. The ‘thin blue line’ was very bright back then!
And about our painted blue line?
From 16 to 24 August 2000, the NSW Road and Transport Authority (now Roads and Maritime Services) applied a blue thermoplastic material to Sydney’s roadways to mark the marathon course for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The blue thermoplastic material was: “[m]anufactured from extruded thermoplastic and glass aggregate, the blue line was developed to provide a non-slip and non-reflective surface for marathon runners and motorists alike. In addition, it was designed to sustain heavy wear almost immediately after its application and to retain a fresh appearance throughout the Games.” (ref).
A legacy to preserve
The Dictionary of Sydney notes that “the memory of Sydney’s triumphal hosting of the Olympics is now preserved in sections of the blue marathon line that have been allowed to remain in places where they do not constitute a road hazard.”
As a result, Centennial Parklands is custodian of one of the best residual sections of this Olympic momento.
Our little patch of blue painted line received quite a beating over the Olympic and Paralympic period in 2000. It’s actually amazing that after 12 years of vehicles, road races and cycling events, the line still stands as a reminder of this magical period in recent Sydney history!
The legacy lives on
Every year since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the Sydney Marathon (part of the Sydney Running Festival) is held, and Centennial Park’s thin blue line once again guides the runners along their arduous journey. Arduous on the body, that is. Running through the beautiful Centennial Park is certainly not arduous on the mind!
Here’s some scenes from the Sydney Marathon in 2013 of the runners passing through Centennial Park.
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Where’s the best place in Sydney for kids to ‘horse around’? Centennial Parklands, of course. And here’s why…
Where else can you:
Take a pony ride every weekend
Take a park ride around a 3.6km horse track
Enjoy school holiday pony and horse camps
Hold a pony party
If you can’t buy your child a horse, Centennial Parklands is the next best thing!
Eastside Riding Academy is one of the five great riding schools that we host.
Your child can enjoy a pony ride every weekend (and public holiday) in Centennial Park. Pony rides are available between 10am and 2pm, and can be booked ahead online.
We have five riding schools available in the Centennial Parklands Equestrian Centre, each offering the wonderful opportunity to experience a hand-led horse ride in one of the world’s best urban parks. You can find out more here.
School holiday camps
We run school holiday riding camps throughout the year. While each of our riding schools, such as this one with Eastside Riding Academy, are some of the most popular school holiday programs in the Parklands. More information on school holidays camps can be found here.
Make your child’s next party one of the most memorable experiences they will have, with a pony party at the Centennial Parklands Equestrian Centre. Find out more here.
So, remember, it’s four legs good in Centennial Parklands. Horse and pony rides in Centennial Park – go on, do something your child will be talking about for years to come.
Horse riding in Centennial Park – a gem of a Sydney experience
Centennial Parklands is managed by Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust
Locked Bag 15 Paddington NSW 2021 Sydney Australia
Phone: +61 2 9339 6699
After hours emergency: 0412 718 611
Fax: +61 2 9360 4215