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Can You Predict the Future of Playground Design?

Fri, 09/01/2006 - 6:00am
Last updated
5 months ago
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What if you could predict the future of playground design? Let your imagination run wild. Would it be something like George Jetson’s children would use? Would children ride an escalator to the top of the slide instead of using a ladder, or would they simply “beam” themselves up? Honestly, hope that is never the case. The whole point of having a playground is having a safe place to play and exercise not only physically but cognitively. How boring it would be to just say “I want to be on top of that deck” and be there with a snap of the fingers.

Let’s take a little different twist on this. Let’s say the playground might become even more of a learning venue. Let’s say that all of the components and area around them might be educational in some way even if it just means that children are educated on the benefits of the physical development possibilities.

We are seeing a few things like that already in the playground industry… things such as the sign language boards available on decks or near the ground just waiting for an eager-to-learn child to come along and take advantage of a new way to communicate with children who might be unable to speak.

Physics is alive and well on the playground, as noted in an earlier article in Today’s Playground about the different interpretations possible from equipment such as the teeter totter. What goes up must certainly come down, and that’s really not all that is possible for learning with such components of the play structure.

There is a project out there now called the ubiPlay project, which is concerned with the interactive possibilities of the playground. To take a look, log on to www.smartus.fi/showPage.php?page_id=45. The purpose of the project is to create and environment in which all groups—including children, parents and senior citizens—can be active together.

User-friendly equipment for interactive joint activities in the play environment may be the wave of the future? Hopefully there is some of that going on right now.

Manufacturers everywhere seem to constantly be trying to come up with innovative concepts in play. We have to applaud that as our children become privy to fun and exciting ways to learn on the playground. It really is a learning center, whether we recognize that or not. As children play, they learn and grow in different areas. They do grow physically…imagine what it would be like it you could see all the little changes in height even as they are playing. We just don’t get that microscopic view. At the same time, they are growing developmentally, socially and emotionally as well. The playground is a place where they get the chance to figure out how to deal with play issues and learn to cooperate with each other.

Consider the classroom situation now. There are so many mandates on advancing curriculum, which is designed to enhance their educational experience. What if the playground could become even more of an extension of the classroom? We surely won’t place books to read out there. Or will we in a sense? Will we eventually place reading options out there for children as they play? Will they have to read and answer a question posted to the structure correctly to advance to the next play component in an elaborately designed area with even more advanced structures? These are just thoughts to ponder on.

It seems the danger would be that if a child had to read a short book in the middle of what should be physical play time, it would cut into that playing time they really do need to give them a chance to regroup. That seems a little far fetched to include that much reading though, so it seems we can relax about that.

We certainly will find out what is to come later, but it could be that new developments stand to turn the playground into a little more of an interactive and even more educational playing field of sorts for all to enjoy. Stay tuned, as we will, to find out just what happens with this and other playground developments in the future. In part II, we will take a look at some more specific examples of what may be to come.

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