There is nothing more endearing than the bright sounds of kids playing in the park. While children are quick to make up their own games, their excitement for the playground is unparalleled. It is stated that “most forms of play are essential for healthy development, but free, spontaneous play – the kind that occurs on playgrounds – is the most beneficial type of play.”
Research shows that play is not just good for physical development of children but essential in developing self-confidence, social skills, cognition and a strong sense of independence. In order to keep children engaged and interested it is important to create exciting and challenging playground equipment. According to a recent survey conducted by the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Voice of Play, “67 percent of families visit the playground one to two times a week to get some fresh air and sunlight and 22 percent visit three or more times a week”.
Though playgrounds have newer designs now, the survey found “kids enjoyed most at the playground, swings and slides were the top choices. Tunnels/tubes, ladders, monkey bars and imaginative play were also popular”.
Interesting Playgrounds around the World
While designing playgrounds and play areas can have their own regulations on safety, the key idea is that the play area should appeal to children. There are many great artists and creators who have worked together to build innovative and attractive playgrounds.
1. Woods of Net playground in Hakone, Japan
Tezuka Architects and Japanese net artist Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam knitted this rainbow nest by hand for children to crawl, jump, and roll around in. While the lower part has hanging swings, the upper area is like a cargo-net for jumping around.
2. Silver Towers Playground in New York City
Brooklyn-based artist Tom Otterness created the Silver Towers Playground in New York City. The artist has created 27 whimsical bronze figures and a 24.5-foot-tall and 30-foot-long sculpture whose legs double as slides!
3. Blue whale in Gothenburg, Sweden
MONSTRUM also constructed this 50-foot-long blue whale in Gothenburg, Sweden. Children can climb into its stomach and slide down its back.
4. Swing Time, Boston
Is an interactive playground set up in a temporary park near the Boston Convention and Exhibition Centre. Created by Höweler + Yoon Architecture, the play area features 20 illuminated swings that switch from white to purple when they’re in use.
5. Shifting Sand Land, Arizona
Inspired by the desert level in Super Mario Brothers. The objective of the game is not to touch the ground.The play area includes 25 “islands” that range in size, with some large enough for several children to balance on with each other.
Of course, getting an artist to design a playground isn’t always an option. One must make sure that the playground appeals to its intended audience – children! Here are a few things to remember to when designing and installing playgrounds for children:
1. Playing together
The friendships of childhood last a lifetime, and they all begin at the playground. Playing as a group helps kids understand social roles and cultural rules. It helps them get accustomed to social norms, cooperation skills and a shared system of symbols, including verbal and body language. It is common for children to make group games, set challenges for themselves and each other. It is always exciting for them to use their surroundings and develop obstacle courses. There are many playground equipment that are built with integrated monkey bars, climbing frame similar designs which are ideal for larger groups and offer opportunity to develop physical skills and flexibility of children.
The fascination and curiosity for bright colours is a common love for children. Whether books, games or a pretty little butterfly, they are captivated by bright hues. As infants, bright colours are the only way they are able to distinguish between shapes and as they grow older bright colours are associated with emotions, typically brighter colours are associated with happy memories, their favourite toy, bright green grass, and beautiful blue sky. Bright colours are also known associated with moods and known to help to activate and stimulate the mind. On a perfectly sunny day, it would be great to be to out and play the light and colourful shadows.
3. Natural look
Children are always monkey-ing around! They are curious about birds, insects and animals. When you are not looking they pluck flowers and leaves, eat dirt, climb trees! Children are always keen to explore nature. The soft colours of nature are appealing, friendly and reassuring. With the growing concrete jungle, kids are removed from the natural environment. Recent studies document the importance of introducing children to the natural world, beginning in the early years. Their social, emotional, and physical health depends on this exposure to develop.
Equipment that hold both, the greenery of the parks or the concrete structures of the playground, provide kids with the natural adventures that they are keen to explore.
What could be more exciting than a simple water sprinkler on a hot summer day! While it is natural for children to be excited about water play, the advantages of the water sensory play are many. It is even an accepted part of children’s development curriculum. Water play is a fun, soothing activity, where children can play and learn alone or with others.
All children can take part in water play. Water play helps children develop hand–eye coordination, understand heavy/light, float/sink, full/empty and shallow/deep, helps them concentrate and solve problems and they learn to share and cooperate with others.
It is common to see play areas for younger children, while older children are expected to participate in organised sport. The famous playground designers Monstrum say that “the most successful playgrounds have a clearly defined age group or are divided into separate areas to meet the needs of the specific ages. Older children need speed and difficult challenges, context and elements like tree houses – separated from the younger kids.” A well developed play area for older children gives them the space to understand and express their emotions and feelings that gives them an uninhibited area to cultivate their energies into some productive. In this age of intense screen time, it is essential to create spaces for them where they are able to move away from the phone and TV screens and inculcate physical activity in their daily schedules.
While attractive and engaging playgrounds are the need of the moment, there are two aspects that must be kept in mind while developing playgrounds:
A successful inclusive playground will encourage interaction between children of different abilities. The website Voiceofplay.org states “Inclusion is an important value that children learn from the playground. Research has shown that children assign value to those who they “think” they can play with and those they cannot. Their perception is that those who play are contributors, and those who don’t play are not. Therefore, children with disabilities who are prevented from playing on playgrounds – because of non-inclusive equipment or surfacing – are already facing the disadvantage of being recognised by their peers as having a lesser value than the children that are playing.” Planning for Inclusive play will include simple and informed choices to make sure you are building a community of sensitive and smart young children.
Fun always has an element of risk, the uncontrolled excitement on the playground can sometimes lead to injuries as well. Although safety is something one will inherently consider in all projects, it is important to review international standards and implement local guidelines. Please make sure that your play areas are equipped with softer landing surfaces, are absent of sharp edges and follow safety guidelines. We must strive to ensure that children are giving exciting and safe places to explore!