Beestenborg – Inclusive Play area in Groningen – The Netherlands, 11.01.18

When two housing estates in Groningen, the Netherlands, were merged together, the local community managed to convince the local authorities to keep an existing ‘borg’ (burgh or steading) with its surrounding meadows and transform it into a Children’s farm with a play area. Initially, this was thought to be a temporary project, but the so-called ‘Beestenborg’ (Animal Burgh) is now a provision that has become central to the area and the community.

Children showing their approval of Access Whirl at park opening day.

Initially, the Children’s farm and the small play area beside it were having a difficult time. The Dutch organisation for Play areas (NUSO) and the local organisation for play area providers (Groninger Speeltuincentrale) asked Russell Play’s partner in the Netherlands -Goede Speelprojecten- and their Landscape Architects partner Studio Jan Ooms to step in and come up with proposals to improve the play area and make it a more popular destination to prevent it from being closed down. Studio Jan Ooms suggested creating a play area where children of all ages and abilities could properly play together and he involved the NSGK, the Dutch foundation representing special needs children.

Consultations were carried out and an important participant in this consultation was ‘De Speeltuinbende’, a group of children of various abilities that test play areas and judge if playgrounds are properly inclusive.

Children showing their approval of Access Spinner at park opening day.

An extensive set of requirements was defined together with the children, the parents and the council. Some existing play equipment would be refurbished and the size of the original play area would be increased substantially. After a long period of fund-raising and negotiation with stakeholders, the play area was finally constructed with the help of installers and volunteers. The resulting design shows a great variety of areas that, together, suit all ages and abilities.

A central path that is suitable for wheelchair use connects the different play areas. Close to the path are various play opportunities for younger children and for children with mobility problems. In these areas, there are accessible sand and water play activities which offer great sensory experiences for this group of children. Play equipment such as the Access Whirl, Access Spinner and Columpio swing are situated here.

Children giving approval vote on Columpio basket swing from fun4all inclusion range.

Children exploring fun play on the Surf Spinner and the Sky Carver (in background).

Further away from the path are the more dynamic activities for older children which are great places to let off steam. Around the edge of the play area you will find exciting and physically challenging products like a single mast climber, Surf Spinner and Sky Carver.

On the other side of the path there are wet areas that can be negotiated by balance beams stepping stones and, probably most exciting of all, a cable ride crossing a pond. There is ample space for free play and there are lots of areas to hide and have some quite time as well.

Children showing their approval of Access Spinner at park opening day.

De Beestenborg has become a great destination for children of all abilities. Volunteers and people that are ready to return into paid work are active at the farm and in addition, the farm runs a breeding program for pets that are threatened with extinction.

The Speeltuinbende has given the play area a big thumbs up (or better: a green paddle sign) and parents and the local council are very happy with the result.

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Download the Beestenborg inclusive play area, Groningen, The Netherlands case study as pdf.