Playground design is changing. It’s an evolution driven by many factors including the increasing need for higher safety standards, an increase in the number of surfacing and equipment options available, and an increasing awareness of the importance of physical play in child development.
Here at Creo, we’re seeing several growing trends in playground design. Here’s a look at the five major playground trends of 2017.
1. Destination Playgrounds.
As the name suggests, Destination Playgrounds are big playgrounds, designed to attract and hold attention for longer. Some local government bodies around New Zealand are creating these areas which attract large numbers of visitors, locally and from further afield. Hamilton City provides excellent examples of this approach. With a commitment to being a family friendly city, Hamilton has already completed seven of fifteen planned destination playgrounds. Built in areas with existing natural benefits like Hamilton Lake and Hamilton Gardens, the sites include toilets, shade, seating and water fountains so families can stay longer. Designs encourage play for all ages and offer opportunities for adventure and social interaction. They really are worth a visit.
2. Culturally Significant Playgrounds.
These interesting playgrounds incorporate culturally significant ideas into their design to create greater meaning for the surrounding community. Clever use of exciting and stimulating themes, and including natural resources, the playground becomes a living, breathing entity. In Christchurch, the Margaret Mahy playground uses inspiration from the surrounding landscape with large play mound ‘hills’ reflecting the Port Hills, and green and yellow patchwork surfacing representing the Canterbury Plains. The area forms part of the Otakaro / Avon River Precinct and uses interactive spaces, gardens and artwork, all connecting seamlessly with the playground equipment, to create a popular place for children and adults alike to come together and enjoy.
3. Inclusive Playgrounds.
This growing trend could be considered one of the most important. Forward thinking playground designers around the world are applying a fresh approach to catering for children with disabilities. Inclusive playgrounds allow children to participate in play together, regardless of their level of ability. These all-access areas mean that children with special needs play alongside their non-disabled peers and siblings. An example of this innovative design initiative can be found at Auckland’s Takapuna Beach. There you’ll find equipment that is fully integrated, without barriers that have the potential to limit access. It is a great achievement and an asset to the area.
4. Pocket Playgrounds.
Ideal for the modern world where space and time are often at a premium. Pocket Playgrounds are playgrounds that take advantage of small spaces that would otherwise go unused. They are perfect for busy urban areas and time poor parents and caregivers. In the US, Kaboom! is a non-profit organisation dedicated to making even the smallest space an opportunity for kids to have fun. Walkways are transformed into stimulating mini-activity centres with chalkboards for self-expression, creativity, and fun exercise challenges. Exciting mazes, traditional swings and hopscotch areas occupying waiting children at bus stops and terminals.
5. Augmented Reality.
Cutting-edge advancements in playground design are found right here in New Zealand. Kiwi designers are removing the barriers between outdoor play and the digital world through Augmented Reality apps. For example, GEO AR Games have created technology that allows children to take their devices into outdoor play, rather than choose one or the other. Armed with tablets or cell-phones, kids run around the playground searching for interactive hotpots, finding fairies, pets or even monsters! Think next -generation Pokemon – more immersive, more kid-friendly, no nasty ads and a full-on focus on getting our young ones out and about.