Reimagining traditional playground equipment for today’s children

My most cherished childhood memories took place playing outdoors – many of them on the playground. Times have changed and now children spend a great deal of their time inside, their attention divided by a variety of tech devices. Time spent outdoors is often dedicated to structured activities like baseball and soccer, where regulations and rules limit creativity. On the playground, imaginations are free to soar.

Yet the decades old playground designs that we all remember so fondly just aren’t always enough for the savvy and overscheduled children of today. As the director of design for Playworld Systems, I wanted to take what we love about the playgrounds of yesteryear and modernize them for today. This idea led to the development of Playworld Systems’ New Classics line, which will launch later this year. The line reimagines versions of everyone’s favorite playground equipment. The series offers new twists on old, beloved play structures, challenging kids in fresh and exciting ways.

Unity Dome inside~1

While the New Classic series officially launches this fall, we just released Unity, a climbing structure from the line that reinvents the geodesic dome. We recognized that the traditional dome had many inherent qualities that are meaningful to a child’s developmental stages, but the original ‘triangle’ construction was out of date. We redesigned the well-remembered dome because children aren’t triangular shaped, because the exciting inner space was inaccessible, and because all sides were the same, minimizing the play value of the structure. The new unique unsymmetrical solution of rings and rungs gives children a reason to move around Unity, as they choose their path and create their own play narrative with their friends. Developing their story, inventing their own rules, and allowing their imagination to carry them anywhere is critically needed to balance the structure of sports and the pre-programming of digital games.

The open layout allows children to see and be in contact with one another. The odd shaped openings welcome everyone inside Unity. Here, the child (or adult) is surrounded by play. In the center is a vertical rope climber leading to the top. This rope climber is designed with a built in transfer point, which allows children in wheelchairs to transfer out of their chair and into the most cherished spot of the product. Not off to the side, but right in the center of all the play action.

The three rhythmic stations – drum, tambourine, and washboard – attached around Unity add another dimension of togetherness. Playing with rhythm builds sensitivity to sound and texture, eye to hand coordination, and cooperation with others. It is an age-old social behavior made to express emotion when words sometimes cannot. That is why Unity is an excellent design solution.

With playground classics reimagined, both children and parents can share in the fun and show each other something new. Adventures will be had, laughter will be shared, and imaginations will run wild. What classic piece of playground equipment do you want to see redesigned?

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