There was a time when injuries and mishaps were part and parcel of the playground experience. Today, new technologies and innovations aim to prioritize safety in playgrounds without compromising fun. Some of the amazing features also transcend tradition, as can be seen in the following examples.
Re-focusing on fitness
Fast food joints used to have their own little jungle gyms, perhaps to counteract the effects of obesity-inducing fare. These indoor playgrounds slowly disappeared over time, taken over by cellphone charging docks and cushy bucket seats designed to accommodate the solitary mobile device user. There’s a growing concern for kids becoming more inactive and socially inept because of handheld electronic gadgets and video games.
Which brings us to...
Using the video game approach
Studies show that today’s children are six times more likely to play a mobile app than ride a bike. This poses a special challenge to playground designers on how to entice kids to become physically active again. The solution? Seek inspiration from virtual games and incorporate them into actual playgrounds.
LED controllers, blinking lights, and score-keeping displays are being introduced to traditional playground equipment to encourage healthy play and competition among kids. Pushing buttons and keeping track of how many games they’ve won are great solutions to engage kids to play in real space.
Not just for kids anymore
Who can be more fit than a child going up the monkey bars for the tenth time, or running around playing tag for the good part of an hour? Taking a cue from this, it’s no longer surprising to see the phrase “playground workout” in a fitness menu. Nowadays, circuit training usually means working out whenever and wherever. A park bench can become a good tool for planks and squats, and monkey bars help build strong arms and backs.
Public fitness parks for adults are also becoming trendy. Multi-generational playground equipment encourage older people to use the playground themselves. No longer passive bystanders, even the elderly can use low-impact exercise equipment like elliptical machines and static bikes, and feel more welcome in their community in the process.
Sculptural and aesthetic
Climbing walls inspired by the Möbius strip, jungle gyms that snake their way around trees, and geometric playspaces are just a few examples of how sculptural today’s playground equipment are becoming. Kids have been known to climb monuments and public installations for the challenge. Introducing aesthetics worthy of a museum space encourages them to do so in safety.
Skinned knees and sprained ankles used to be part of a playground repertoire. Now, parents and playground guardians can breathe a little easier, thanks to alternative surfacing like rubber mulch offering to cushion falls and lessening the chances of play-related injuries. Even the White House playground uses rubber mulch surfacing for its shock absorbency.