architecture · children · community · design · environment · health · mental health · play · school

Changing Skyline: Redesigning playgrounds to promote ‘loose play’ – think pop-up play spaces

Great article about the evolution of the playground, as well as the next generation of playgrounds emerging in cities:

After World War II, European architects turned out custom playgrounds that challenged kids both physically and intellectually. Inspired by their work, a few American architects, including Philadelphia’s Louis Kahn, tried their hands at the form. But the movement didn’t get very far. Playgrounds were a casualty of the breakdown of American cities in the ’60s and ’70s. As maintenance was deferred, they fell into ruin. By the time cities began to recover in the ’90s, Solomon says, all that local officials wanted was equipment that was indestructible and vetted for safety.

Moore, a professor at North Carolina State University who has been studying children’s play for 50 years, sees a connection between those designs and the increase in such childhood ailments as obesity, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder. In the simple act of scrambling up the branches of a tree, a kid learns to monitor risk and deal with fear. But on most playgrounds, the climbing frames are lower than ever.

The concern about such controlled environments has sparked any number of popular books advocating less programming: Free Range Kids, 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do), Last Child in the Woods. All see our culture’s fear of risk as worse than the occasional scraped knee or broken bone.

So what’s the alternative to standard-issue playgrounds? Solomon envisions multipurpose, multigenerational urban parks that incorporate spaces where kids can take charge of their own play. Instead of a fixed bridge in a plastic fort, they would have to use their imagination to decide which objects could be converted to play equipment. Such a challenging play space also would include nooks where kids could temporarily escape the nervous gaze of their caregivers. There would be no fences, plenty of trees and bushes, and good seating.

read more of their ideas for better playgrounds via Changing Skyline: Redesigning playgrounds to promote ‘loose play’ – think pop-up play spaces.

My favorite playground growing up was made of mostly huge sewer pipe pieces, a monkey cage, and random cement shapes. What was your favorite playground as a kid? Or now? Describe it in the comments below.

anthropology · behavior · children · education · health · learning · music · play

To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music And Gym : NPR Ed : NPR

This gives me hope:

In the stuffy, little gymnasium at Richard Kluge Elementary in Milwaukee, 16 boys and girls are stretching, jumping and marching to music.

Two years ago, the school had no gym, art or music classes due to budget cuts. But now, Kluge students get a so-called “special” class three days a week.

Milwaukee Public Schools is one of several school systems across the country — including Los Angeles, San Diego and Nashville, Tenn. — that are re-investing in subjects like art and physical education. The Milwaukee school district is hiring new specialty teachers with the hope of attracting more families and boosting academic achievement.Music teacher Angie Dvorak is one of the teachers that’s been effected. Last year, Dvorak was part time and traveled between schools. This year, she’s stays at Kluge all day, teaching music upstairs from the school’s gymnasium.

Dvorak says she’s seen a different in her students: “I get to have them for class more frequently, which is awesome because their music skills are shooting through the roof this year.”

more via To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music And Gym : NPR Ed : NPR.

children · creativity · design · environment · learning · Nature · play

Can This Industrial Designer Get Children Back Outside? | Natural Start

Nice to see toys being introduced that work with already existing toys (sticks!), and encourages kids to go find their own sticks and go play in nature.

As an inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the stick doesn’t need much improving as a classic toy. For as long as there have been children and sticks, sticks have served as a versatile toy in outdoor play. But connecting sticks takes a bit of ingenuity.

Enter Christina Kazakia, a design student with a mission. As she explains, “I designed these flexible silicone connectors as part of my graduate thesis in Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. My goal was to create prompts to engage children with their surrounding natural environment.” Called Stick-lets™, these connectors help small children build big structures like forts, teepees, lean-tos, or other creations.

Find out more about the toy and her kickstarter via Can This Industrial Designer Get Children Back Outside? | Natural Start.

architecture · children · creativity · design · health · play

These are the most fantastical playgrounds ever built

Having fun, exciting spaces to play is important for both kids and grown-ups, so it’s nice to see what’s out there for kids, and hopefully grown-ups will follow suit.

When you’re a kid, visiting an amazing playground is the greatest experience ever. And these fantasy-themed playgrounds around the world have us wishing that we were kids again so we could run around in them like small, crazy people.

more via These are the most fantastical playgrounds ever built.

All of these are in more urban settings, and it would be cool to see some more natural playscapes, but the ideas behind some of these parks are fantastic!

anthropology · architecture · design · happiness · health · play

superkilen urban park by BIG architects, topotek1 + superflex

Happy Friday! I hope you have plans to go out and play. I totally want to play here!

Superkilen

the “black square” at night

superkilen‘ is a kilometer long park situated through the nørrebro area just north of copenhagen’s city centre, considered one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighborhoods in the danish capital as it is home to more than 60 nationalities. the large-scale project comes as a result of an invited competition initiated by the city of copenhagen and the realdania foundation as a means of creating an urban space with a strong identity on a local and global scale.

more via superkilen urban park by BIG architects, topotek1 + superflex.

behavior · children

Art as Play – The Indoors – Outdoors Playground

This blog post is from two years ago but still relevant…

PlayGroundology

In the interior courtyard of Ottawa’s City Hall there is a place where the door is always open. The Living Room is a multiple piece static sculpture by the design duo at Urban Keios .

This is art as playground, an open invitation for children to make believe and scamper about slightly oversize chairs with out of kilter door and window frames defining the space. It looks like a set prepped for the shooting of a claymation adventure where we’re just waiting for the action to begin. There in the near distance is a TV permanently piping in the imagination station.

Although The Living Room is not designed as a playground per se, what kids could resist stopping off momentarily for a touch of make believe, of playing house, of filling the blue sky space with movement and laughter?

Somebody’s having fun. The grass is worn away down to hard…

View original post 107 more words

architecture · community · design · environment · play

Superkilen: Global Mash-up of a Park

Using parks and other playful spaces to improve urban neighborhoods and the residents’ lives…

THE DIRT

super1
The nearly mile-long Superkilen park in Denmark is a bold attempt to create a new identity for an “ethnically diverse and socially challenged” neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark. An in-depth community outreach process organized by the city has led to a place like no other, with a sequence of plazas that honor different ethnics groups living in the area. Designed by Bjarke Ingels’ firm, BIG, landscape architecture firm, Topotek 1, and artists’ group, Superflex, the massive project also accomplished a lot with a little budget: at just $34 per square foot, the landscape “packs a lot of bang for the buck.” The project, which has recently been all over the design press, also just took home the AIA Institute Honor Award for urban and regional design and an annual design award from Architect Magazine in the “play” category.

The AIA jury, which included Ellen Dunham Jones, author of Retrofitting Suburbia

View original post 821 more words

community · creativity

Playgrounds made from junk | KaBOOM!

Recycle, reuse, replay!

Playgrounds made from junk | KaBOOM!

Plastic bottles, car parts, shipping containers, steel drums, and tires.

No, we’re not describing a junkyard — we’re describing a potential playground. Recycled playground structures combine ingenuity, whimsy, and thrift to create spaces that are friendly to our kids and our planet alike.From Brazil to Norway to Uganda, these playgrounds are true gems, even if they’re made from junk; more via Playgrounds made from junk | KaBOOM!.

architecture · children · design · environment · happiness · Nature · play

The Best Playground Is The One Nature Provided | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation

children lawn running

A recent article in the online magazine Co.EXIST discussed a study that found children benefit from being in natural environments, even if the environment is designed to appear natural but is actually human-made:

Dawn Coe, an assistant professor in the Department of kinesiology, recreation, and sport studies at the University of Tennessee spent time observing the behavior and time children spent playing on a local playground. After playground renovations added a gazebo, slides, trees, a creek, and a natural landscape of rocks, flowers and logs, Coe returned a year later to observe differences. Working with a statistician, Coe found children spent twice as much time playing in the natural landscape, and were less sedentary after the renovation and more active.“Natural playscapes appear to be a viable alternative to traditional playgrounds for school and community settings,” said Coe in a university statement. “Future studies should look at these changes long-term as well as the nature of the children’s play.”

via The Best Playground Is The One Nature Provided | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.

I attended a conference a couple of years ago where playground designers were reporting discovering the exact same thing – if you give a kid a pile of dirt and tree bark to play with and a bucket of water, they will have WAY more fun, play more, and learn some things as well.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise based on previous research on us humans:

For decades, scientists have reported our species exhibits a consistent, if not quite understood, response to spending time around nature: it boosts our mental and physical well being.

The scattering of findings have held in hospital beds, public housing, and Japanese forests. A 2001 study of public housing found the mere presence of trees and grass reduced reduced reported aggression and violence. Another showed people shown a stressful movie recovered to a normal state–as measured by metrics such as heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure–“faster and more complete[ly]” when exposed to natural rather than urban environments.

However, a lot of cities and schools are reluctant to install these kinds of playgrounds since they are considered “untested” or approved by several school or city boards. Thankfully, according to the article, cities are beginning to adopt and install these types of playgrounds:

“Natural playscapes are part of a growing trend appearing in cities across the US including Boston, Phoenix, Chicago, New York, Auburn and others.”

I hope to see more of these pop up around major cities. Do you have a natural playscape near your home? Tell us about it in the comments below.

behavior · children · cognition · education · happiness · health · play · school

Play time vital for learning

Combination playground equipment (plastic)
Playground doesn’t need to be fancy to be effective (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we head back into the academic school year, a lot of people are focused on education and making sure students get the best possible opportunity to learn and thrive. Here’s one easy way to support that: give them space and time for play!

Numerous academic studies [sources stored in a weird place, will update soon] on school-aged kids have demonstrated that recess time is valuable for learning and aids in the overall learning process. But I think it can be more powerful to hear how valuable it is from someone who actually lives with the results of life with more or less recess; the teachers.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, educator Susanne North writes about the values of recess from an education viewpoint:

Apart from being a fun activity, it is widely recognised that play is one of the most important ways in which brain development occurs in children.

Sadly, in some schools valuable recess and lunch time has been reduced in favour of more rigorous academic pursuit within the classroom. In other schools, running or ball games have been banned due to a perceived high injury risk factor.

As many families now choose structured and adult-directed play activities after school or on weekends, the school playground becomes one of a few outlets where children can engage in free outdoor play with their peers. More than 28 hours a week, often spent solitarily, are devoted to computers, mobile phones, television and other electronic devices. Considering that as much as 25 per cent of time spent at school is playground time, we need to rethink the benefits of play at school.

Conversely, a lack of play can result in challenging behaviour and negative performances in the classroom, according to an American educational psychologist, Anthony Pellegrini.

Also, playgrounds that lack play stimuli become spaces where children often wander around aimlessly, become frustrated and bully other children. Not many schools can afford expensive playground equipment, but the good news is that this is not needed anyway.

Professor Anita Bundy, from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Sydney University, has launched a large-scale study involving 12 primary schools in NSW, introducing simple, recycled play resources during recess, with outstanding results. This included crates, car tyres, foam pool noodles, plastic barrels, tarpaulins, foam cubes and other open-ended materials that lend themselves to creative, imaginary play.

Not only do children become physically more active, they also hone important social skills, build resilience and are encouraged to think creatively.

Read more: Play time vital for children | Sydney Morning Herald

The entire Op-Ed is very strongly written and makes a great case for play, and it’s great to hear it from the teacher’s standpoint, so please read it and share. And be sure to support play time in school, whether it’s by voting, volunteering, donating red rubber balls, or whatever you can do.