Prominent architects like David Rockwell (a recent Shaw Hospitality Group collaborator) and Frank Gehry have tried their hands at designing a more imaginative play space, one where children are not pigeonholed into any certain type of play, but allowed to let their creativity guide them. In a recent article from Fast Company Design, one company is redesigning the way children play – benefiting not only their love of play, but also their development.
Studies have shown that these type of playgrounds, which encourage children to create their own distinct play experience, can be beneficial to children’s social and cognitive development, but not every town can afford a “starchitect”-designed playground. For communities with more modest budgets that still want to foster creative play, the recently launched studio Free Play has created a line of structures designed to give children something to explore, without dictating how they might do that.
Free Play was founded when Dan Schreibman, a management consultant, noticed that his two young children didn’t really like playing on traditional playgrounds. They preferred an empty cardboard box or the pond out in the backyard. So he set about trying to design something that would provide the kind of unstructured, creative play experience they seemed to enjoy most, but that they could eventually find at a local playground.
What he came up with were four modular playground pieces that resemble experimental sculptures more than children’s playthings, but that could fit in at just about any park or school. Each is customizable so that their size and layout can be adjusted depending on the playground’s needs and budget. The Maze, a boxy blue structure filled with holes, like giant cubes of Swiss cheese, lets kids climb, hide, or do whatever it is they like to do with a big empty boxes. The Ant Farm is filled with suspended crawling tubes, but none like you’d find in a McDonald’s playground. You can go through, over or under them. The Weeping Willow consists of a dense thicket of tall ropes, which can be swung on or brushed apart like overgrown jungle plants, or outfitted with wind chimes. The stalks of the Corn Field sway when you touch them, and can be fitted with LED lights.
“Play is a time for development and imagination, and people are finding that we are just limiting our children in a lot of ways,” Thatcher says. With more abstract play pieces like these, she says, “children can then use their imaginations and approach a playground over and over again and essentially create new games.”
For more design from “starchitect” David Rockwell, check out Shaw Hospitality Group’s new collection, Layered Luxe.
Images: FastCo Design