Nick Farmer on creating an attraction from the stories and characters of Timbalaya.

Georgina Parfitt, our author, has given us a wonderfully creative and imaginative story in her first book from the magical world of Timbalaya, “Beyond Wishing”. We get to know our adventurers Luni, Sparrow and Che while at home in their village and then we head off with them on their daunting adventure to find the culprit in our intriguing story.  Every step of the way is rich in ideas for creating real life play.

The challenge is to provide a depth in physical play that allows young visitors to really play make-believe while keeping true to the story.  In other words, provide enough to reveal the magical land, without being too prescriptive in how you play within it.

What we’ve developed will really let their imaginations fly.  Children will find familiar points of reference; paths, bridges, houses, the forest and of course Spangle Stargazer’s observatory. There will be a richness and depth to run in parallel with the stories, making for such a memorable day of adventurous fun.

Another interesting challenge has been to design the play in a way that works whether you’ve read the stories of Timbalaya or not.  This is really about layering story to give you as much as you need but not forcing everyone through an orientation or an explanation.  Tricky but doable.

Ultimately the play will be so immersive and captivating, everyone will want to read the stories at home having spent time in Timbalaya.  It may seem strange that outdoor play will encourage reading back at home but we know from our action research that’s how it will work in many cases.

Adventurous play works best where one things leads to another.  Playing on or within a structure leads to discovering something else that you wouldn’t have readily found if you hadn’t started.  This invites exploration and encourages curiosity.  There must be sufficient variety in the installation so there’s a feeling that every time can be a different adventure.  We’re striving for a sense of magic, achieving the impossible and finding the unexpected.

When children start to think “I love this place, I want to live here” then we’ll know we’re getting it right.

My heart sinks when I see children’s playgrounds that are just an array of sterile barren utility equipment.  There’s no sense that there could be life in such a place, no heart or soul, no charm or intrigue.  Children can climb on it and that’s as far as it goes.

At the end of a few hours play in Timbalaya, children will feel they’ve achieved, they’ve found things they never knew, and they’ll believe they’ve been walking in the footsteps of Luni, Sparrow and Chee as they travelled on their epic journey to solve the ultimate riddle.  And they’ll believe they can achieve anything, if they wish it enough!

Nick Farmer

Guardian of the Stargazers

Creative Director of Timbalaya parks and attractions.