Hong Kong bamboo climbing frame project aims to change how children play
A climbing frame made from bamboo is part of an initiative to draw Hong Kong children closer to nature and away from the usual plastic playground equipment
Children hang like monkeys off bamboo scaffolding and shout as they clamber over the newly assembled climbing frame adjoining Tai Tam Country Park.
"This is my hotel,” says one child, pointing to the three-metre structure shaped like a child’s drawing of a house. Bamboo sticks are strewn on the ground.
Bamboo scaffolding is a common sight in Hong Kong, but the structure in Tai Tam serves another purpose. It’s a pilot jungle gym funded by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department as part of a biodiversity festival that runs until the end of this month. More than 40 groups will host 130 eco-activities designed to connect Hongkongers with nature. Bamboo is regarded as a sustainable material of the future.
Jenna Ho Marris, co-founder of eco-education centre Tai Tam Tuk Foundation and a leader of the bamboo gym project, says: “What if we could bring kids closer to nature, to get them playing with natural materials instead of the brightly coloured plastic junk that they are not that interested in anyway?”
The White House and bamboo gym are part of a push for a greener approach to play in the city. The government manages about 700 playgrounds, and most feature plastic and metal equipment. A video survey of five playgrounds conducted during the summer holidays in 2015 revealed they were deserted a quarter of the time. When children did show up, they made their own fun, climbing up the slides or playing with scooters and in flower beds.
“There is too much emphasis on safety so it’s not challenging,” says Chris Yuen, director of Playright, the consultancy that carried out the survey.