30 Oct Playgrounds of the Future, Today
Professionals today in the Park & Recreation industry face unique challenges. People are concerned about safety issues, sometimes to the point of paralysis. The games that used to be the most popular are all being replaced by structures that have no movement. In the electronic age, childhood obesity is a growing concern and motivating children to be active is harder than ever. This is even truer of older children in the playground target ages, between the ages of 9 to 12. Rising equipment, installation and maintenance costs, and lack of available space, make it more difficult to meet the needs of growing populations. The most challenging aspect of choosing new and attractive playgrounds is the lack of uniqueness and innovation found in the product choices available to designers.
Everyone knows that children have the most fun when they’re moving. They’re always running, jumping, swinging, bouncing and climbing; therefore, it follows that playground equipment lacking in its ability to provide these attractions will lack attention from this same group. So, shouldn’t playground games be designed with motion in mind? Didn’t you have the most fun on the merry-go-round? Most of our fondest memories of childhood play involve motion.
Motion can be scary to a parent watching, though, and allowances have to be made for safety, but taking away motion isn’t the best solution. This is an age of amazing materials and design technology. We can find ways to give the children what they want, and keep them safer than ever before. For example, the newest generation of merry-go-rounds no longer spin out of control, yet can be 10 feet tall or more, and have room for dozens of riders. They can also allow users of all abilities to participate, which is important with the growing awareness of special needs children. Better offerings of safety-conscious swings for multiple riders can get the kids “into the swing of things” too.
By using motion focused playground equipment with plenty of room for community play, interesting dynamics evolve, creating cooperative play among the children. Without even realizing it, they’re being active and exercising. Even better is the way that the older children – ages 9 to 12 or higher – are drawn away from their sedentary habits in front of television or computer screens to get outside and play. All ages and abilities can play together, learn to share and help. There aren’t many solitary players in that type of a playground.
Other futuristic playground games that are available today are fabricated climbing boulders and rope based net climbers. These products are all designed to keep the children moving, while aiding the development of motor skills, problem-solving, and muscle tone. Healthier bodies have healthier minds that can learn more and go further in life. Every tool we can give the children to grow and succeed will pay off huge dividends when they make their contribution to the world.
As space runs out, and the cost for each square foot of usage zone increases, playground equipment needs to maximize its play value to give the purchaser the most for their money. By using this new technology and out-of-the-box thinking, playgrounds can maximize space usage, and spend their money on compact structures that children actually use, instead of large sprawling structures that only see sporadic play. Initial “sticker shock” can be scary to some, but once all of the factors are calculated there can be a significant benefit to your playground project.
At the end of the day, you want your playground to be unique and to challenge the children. You want your playground games to be exciting and full of motion so that the children will use the equipment. It’s hard to find unique games that will help you achieve your goals, but if you look in the right place you can.