One of the current issues in playground design is that even when a playground is available, kids often don’t play long enough–they don’t reach the 20 minutes of vigorous play best for health benefits and combating obesity.  Sometimes that means the playground simply isn’t well designed.  But there are other ways to think about encouraging longer play times, and Copenhagen based Play IT sound have developed an “interactive sound device that brings traditional swings into the digital age” whose music and applause  ‘reward’  longer and more active play.  “After a certain time on the swing and/or when the child reaches a certain height he or she is rewarded with a sound experience. When reaching the next level another sound will be triggered.”

I love that it’s solar powered,  and can be added onto existing equipment!  I’m sure there will be some discussion about whether more sounds/these sounds are desirable in the playscape.  But all kinds of creative thinking are needed to make the playgrounds of the future better than those of the past,  and to keep kids playing better longer…thanks to Jonas for sending this in!  Son-X has been nominated for a Design to improve Life award here.


Posted in Contemporary Design

We’ve talked before about ‘real stuff on the playground‘–repurposing items like train cars and jet planes–that was once a common playground practice but has fallen out of favor, at least in the West.  But repurposing is still a common theme of play spaces in developing countries, and charmingly so in this playground for a children’s hospital in Malawi, which repurposed an an old Land Cruiser as an ambulance!

Made wheelchair accessible with the using of appropriate concrete pavements and ramps, the ambulance becomes a clubhouse/swingset/climber all in one. The installation is by Peter Meijer, director of Sakaramenta–a social enterprise which employs Malawians to produce bicycle carts and other items–along with designers Luc van Hoeckel and Pim van Baarsen.

[photos by sakaramenta, via designboom]


Posted in Contemporary Design

This compact playscape in San Francisco’s historic Presidio manages to tick alot of boxes in a small space:  rolling topography with circuitous paths, a circular meeting space for outdoor class, an inspiring play house, natural elements, appropriate plantings and loose parts play via the creative use of cardboard tubing!  Plus an appropriate use of equipment.  And all within a strong design framework for the space, which so many school playgrounds lack.  Admirably done by surface design. 

“…the landscape architect designed play features to support the Reggio Emilia approach and to recall bay area landscapes: the “beach” sand pit; the play “forest;” a grassy “Headland” mound; and a giant “telephone,” constructed from a large remnant drainage pipe. Carved out from the center of the Headlands, the designers created a room of rammed earth, recalling the forms of historic defense bunkers found at the water’s edge of the Presidio. Tree cookie pavers, cut from fallen Eucalyptus trees in the Presidio provide students to create their own games and to create paths through the school yard.  Material selection and planting for the project was informed by the educational objectives of the playground and by the planting and preservation guidelines of the Presidio Trust. Plants are drought-tolerant and native and materials are natural, biodegradable or reclaimed.”

[found at architypesource:   photos from surface design.]

Posted in Natural Playgrounds, Play DIY

In the continuing saga of ‘things-I-wish-I-saw-on-the-playground’ is the the kinetic use of rainwater…like on this Rube Goldberg building facade in Dresden, Germany, which also plays music!  Plus I love funnels. If you know the designer of this, please enlighten me!

[photos by Gordon TarpleyRobert and Rainer Fritz]

UPDATE:  thanks to reader Bush for letting me know the designers are  Annette Paul, Christoph Roßner, and André Tempel.

Posted in Contemporary Design

In case you didn’t catch it in the ‘comments’, reader Sandra posted a great follow-up about the musical stairs installed at Odenplan station in Stockholm, to encourage taking the stairs instead of the escalator.

66% more people did.

A great idea that could be adapted for the playground…even just for additional fun going up the stairs of the slide.

One of many unique proposals at; dedicated to using fun to change behavior for the better.
[Thanks, Sandra!]

Posted in Contemporary Design
Another entry from the aforementioned Treemendous Treehouses exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden was “a swing that strummed a melody from a sound chamber above”.
Musical Flight,” designed by Robert Tretsch and Edward Palisoc of Ink Architects, was nestled in an oak near the sculpture Stillness and Growth and took the shape of a perched songbird. A swing in movement strummed a melody from a wood, wire, and steel, sound chamber while wings flapped in the breeze. Counter-balancing wood “tail feathers” anchored the tree house. “
Apologies for the poor quality photo; I couldn’t find anything better, but I wanted to include this lovely idea for a swing that sings.
Posted in Contemporary Design


Peals of laughter are what I most like to hear, but chimes, drums, or a stone xylophone would be nice too.
Made mostly from recycled materials by Jim Doble.
Posted in Play Art