Better school playgrounds build better kids

by | Nov 25, 2021

The benefits children get from playing at outdoor playgrounds is almost unlimited, as it helps with cognitive, emotional and physical development, supports wellbeing, socialisation and understanding of risk.

Colwill School in Massey, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Source:


Unfortunately, the stats on the state of play in New Zealand are not great with 46 per cent of Kiwi kids aged 8-12 years old not playing every day and 50-70 per cent of them not playing actively and do not experience ‘real’ play activities such as tree climbing, riding bikes and scooters, or games that involve getting muddy or messy.

Those recent insights led to the genesis of Project Playground, which will see the Mitre 10 Helping Hands community program build three playgrounds in the first half of 2022, with the help of experts Playground People, for three lucky primary schools, their students and their local communities.

Mitre 10 Chief Marketing Officer Jules Lloyd-Jones said the response generated by a nationwide call for primary schools looking to improve their play facilities was “overwhelming” and that Project Playground would likely continue once the first three builds were complete.

“We absolutely knew there was a need, but not how great that need was in reality. More than 550 schools sent in heartfelt submissions for a new playground, that’s around half the primary schools in Aotearoa. With play being such an important part of children’s development, building great play spaces will impact the whole community, not just the school. We want to inspire Kiwi to love where they live, work, and play, and a great playground can be the cornerstone for the entire school to become a play space.”

Scott Mackenzie, Play System Lead at Sport NZ, which is a kaitiaki of play, active recreation and sport across Aotearoa New Zealand, was invited to join the panel reviewing submissions. He said the physical environment is a key part of ensuring tamariki experience quality play outcomes.

“The way tamariki move on, with and through playgrounds and their environments contributes to their wellbeing in so many ways, and they start to develop a sense of where they are in relation to these spaces. These play experiences can help shape who they are, now and into the future.”

South New Brighton School in Ōtautahi Christchurch

Nine reviewers, three independent and six from Mitre 10, with much discussion and great difficulty, whittled the list down to three, with many a heartstring tugged in the process:

These will be significant playground builds, each in the region of $140,000. Two further schools, Wharenui School in Ōtautahi Christchurch, and Puketapu School in Ngāmotu New Plymouth, will be gifted $10,000 Mitre 10 Gift Cards to help them make improvements to their playgrounds too.

Upon hearing their school was one of the three, the group of Year Five ‘Saltie Soarer Leaders’ who entered for Te Hapara School said: “We dared to dream big on behalf of everyone in our school and all of the visitors that use our kura as a meeting place or a venue for their clubs. We would like to express our sincere gratitude and look forward to sharing our smiles and Aroha along this journey!”

Their teachers Miss Daniels and Miss Duncan said, “We never underestimate the importance of having fun and so we are truly grateful to Mitre 10 for choosing our school to turn up the fun-dial with a new playground. Our new playground will be a place that grows friendships, where everyone is tuakana-teina. It will provide new challenges and grow physical and spiritual well-being. Most importantly this is where great and long-lasting memories will be made.”

Colwill School Principal Rob Taylor and Assistant Principal Liz Whithouse said, “This is just so amazing for our school, the children, their whānau and our staff. After such a long period of having to make the best of our old worn playground set-up, we are over the moon with this very generous gift. We are looking forward to working closely with Mitre 10 to develop something completely WOW for our children to enjoy.”

Sue Walls, Principal/Tumuaki at South Brighton School said they were absolutely thrilled.

“Our school has been waiting so long for new buildings and the opportunity to upgrade our school grounds, so to have a kick start like this is wonderful. We will be celebrating our Centenary in 2022 and as a huge bonus we will have an exciting new playground for students where they can play, learn and have fun. Positive news like this is an absolute boost to spirits,” Ms Walls said.