For many years, play was something for children and playgrounds were where kids went to play. Parents and caregivers were often on the sidelines of play reading a book and, more recently, spending time on mobile devices. The perception of play and outdoor spaces is changing and that change in perception provides benefits for entire communities. Playgrounds and outdoor recreation spaces are becoming what they were intended all along - multigenerational destinations where everyone can connect, move, socialize and have fun.
The addition of multigenerational spaces is a great way to get everyone outdoors and allow kids more time to play. Comfort for parents and caregivers is paramount and changes to the design and placement of playground seating is a great starting point. For example, site furnishings like benches and tables are being incorporated into the play area rather than outside of it. This allows caregivers to be in the middle of the play action. Even better, the outdoor furnishings can double as play equipment that kids can use for climbing and movement. One example of this is the Novo® Playful Furniture collection by BCI Burke. The tables can be attached to the play structure and the benches arranged for use in a variety of ways. Another newly introduced play event that focuses on comfort and engagement is a swing built for two. The Konnection® Swing allows caregiver and child, or an older and younger sibling, to see one another while swinging for maximum fun and connection.
Also contributing to the changing experience at playgrounds is the inclusion of outdoor fitness equipment – specifically obstacle course fitness. This equipment is ASTM 1487 certified and can be used within the playspace or as a separate area for children ages 5-12 and everyone 13+. Here users can foster their own playful and competitive spirit through physical movement and get and stay active for both mental and physical benefits. ELEVATE® Fitness Courses allow everyone to exercise together no matter their physical fitness. Each piece of equipment has three levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced – and users can select what’s right for them. It challenges everyone while leaving out the intimidation factor often present when beginning a new exercise program. What’s more is that each course has a QR Code that users can scan and learn the different ways to use each piece of equipment.
You might not necessarily think of technology when you think about play, but it represents another example of an evolving multigenerational playground experience. So many of us are so accustomed to video games and apps where users sit in front of a screen. Now there is a way to combine the fun of an app with movement, imagination, and caregiver involvement. It is called Biba® playground games and it requires an easy and free App download for the users and a simple add-on to the playground structure. Caregivers control the device while kids play the games on the playground. This provides new uses for playground equipment and extends the time kids spend moving and engaging in outdoor play. Caregiver involvement can help to encourage kids to build on their fitness levels and imagination skills.
Whether you are young, or just young at heart, the playground is evolving for everyone. With a little thoughtful planning, play spaces throughout Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia can be designed with the goal of bringing all generations together to relax and rediscover the joy of play.