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Playgrounds

  • Investing in early childhood play is an investment in tomorrow’s leaders

    A vast majority of young children are accustomed to their daily routine: school and homework.

    Kindergarteners, in addition to spending most of their time indoors, are spending nearly 25 minutes a day on homework. This is despite the fact that the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parents Teachers Association (PTA) don’t endorse homework for kindergarten.

    Preschoolers are not getting enough play. 30 years ago, it was a different story – 40 percent of a typical preschool day was devoted to child-initiated play. This number has more recently fallen to a meager 25 percent (Miller & Almon, 2009).

    Play is critical for young children to develop various skills that they’ll utilize throughout their lives.  Engaging in unstructured play allows children to explore and develop numerous abilities such as problem-solving, decision making and self-expression.

    Children need interaction, imagination, and creativity. Countries such as China, Japan and Finland, often touted for exceptional international math and science assessment scores, boast preschools that are full of fun and experimental learning – via play!

    Research shows that play serves as a strong engine to power learning in the preschool years and beyond. Children under 5 enrolled in play-based preschool programs possess a strong advantage over those who are denied play, and are more likely to grow into happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults.

    In fact, a recent review of 180 research studies by Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper revealed that the benefits of homework are highly reliant on age. The review found that for elementary school-aged kids and younger, it is best to hold off on homework because it can potentially have a negative impact. When assigned too early on, homework can foster a negative attitude towards school in general. And it takes time away from them playing, and learning through play.

    It’s clear that when they play, young children develop fine and gross motor skills, balance and strength, plus cognitive and social skills. Playworld’s early childhood play equipment are specifically engineered to build these skills and help children make the most of their priceless play time.

    Learn more about our early childhood product offerings here.

  • Inside Design: Branch Out

    I’ve worked in the playground equipment industry for decades and one of the best aspects of my job is getting to see firsthand the pure joy that play brings to children. My team and I work hard ensuring we’re continually innovating and designing equipment that keeps children excited about free play.

    For a while we’ve been intrigued by the renewed interest in nature play and frankly, a bit disenchanted by the current state of post and platform playgrounds. Having discussed these two factors extensively, our brainstorms and design sessions eventually led us to Branch Out. Launched in January 2016, Branch Out is a large play component inspired by the play that happens in trees.

    In retrospect, I think designing Branch Out was an extremely fascinating process. While the tree seemed like a good starting point, we were always very sure about not wanting to replicate it. After all, why create something that already exists? Plus, we can’t compete with the beauty of our planet’s natural landscape. Our goal, instead, with Branch Out was to draw more people to the playground and in doing so, we focused on bringing to life an inclusive play component and creating meaningful play experiences for children of all ages in an open, efficient layout.

    Designed for children ages 5-12, it has the scale to become the central hub of any playground. However, it is transparent, non-directional and open. And with play happening on multiple levels and directions, people to can imagine their own story as they play.

    Additionally, the complexity of elements and absence of an obvious play path foster physical and cognitive engagement, effective hand-eye coordination, decision making, greater individual challenge, risk management, a deeper understanding of the surrounding and the opportunity for social interaction among children.

    Our team designed Branch Out as a play component that encourages kids to embrace new challenges and play activities. It is my hope that this piece will encourage kids and adults alike to step outdoors and head to a playground.

    What other aspects of nature play would you like to rediscover on the playground?

  • Play like a champ: making every Sunday ‘super’

    On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will go head to head in Super Bowl 50.

    Super Bowl Sunday is no doubt an awesome day to hangout with friends, crack open a drink and snack on wings and hoagies. But I think Sundays in general are an ideal time for sneaking in some much needed play.

    Even the NFL agrees. The organization runs NFL PLAY 60, a campaign designed to tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active through in-school, after-school and team-based programs and partnerships with like-minded associations.

    So how can you make this and every Sunday super? Aim for play!

    Weather or not
    Sort of like the US Postal Service, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, should keep us from playing. Commit to making Sunday a play day regardless of the weather or season.

    Dress for adventure
    Instead of sporting your “Sunday best”, opt for sweats or other casual clothes. Head outside with the family and see what happens. Make mud puddles your friend.

    Who’s the boss?
    Let the kids decide how they want to spend their time outside. Start shifting away from adult-dictated and supervised play to kid-directed free play. As a dad, I’ve seen many positive changes when I empower my boys.

    How do you ensure playtime for your family on the weekends?

  • Play sculpture arrives in Singapore

    by Robyn Gordner

    There’s an eye-catching new structure in Singapore and it isn’t a new skyscraper.

    Playworld installed PlayForm 7 in the city last month. The first PlayForm 7 installation in the world is at Marina Bay, near the Merlion, a favorite spot among tourists and residents alike.

    I was very excited to fly from Pennsylvania to Singapore to photograph this milestone in Playworld history. After looking at Google Maps and street-level views for weeks in preparation for the photo shoot, it was surreal to be standing there on that very spot and witness the installation.

    PlayForm 7 establishes a shift in playground design and provides a strong visual impact. In a world where outdoor play is endangered and there is a pressing need to rethink play design, the structure offers a refreshing new take on play. It uses public art as a means to unite communities and creates an intriguing and interesting backdrop where everyone can gather, play, discover and enjoy being together on their terms, in their own way.

    The structure’s open design with over 20 play elements allows nearly 60 children to play on it at once. In fact, when I was in Singapore, I witnessed people of all ages and abilities playing on PlayForm 7. Seeing a PlayForm 7 in its permanent home and experiencing everyone’s’ reactions along the way was a moving experience that filled me with pride for my teammates back at home. It was thrilling to see adults and kids connecting with each other in meaningful ways and their excitement when they first laid eyes on PlayForm 7. They couldn’t wait to approach it, touch it, and experience it.

    The installation concluded with a successful event with local landscape architects and officials from the park and recreation industry. It was fascinating to see them getting involved with the play structure and relive their childhood days. Young children and adolescents took an instant liking to the structure. They had never seen anything like PlayForm 7 and have been turning up in large numbers to play on it since its installation.

    Thanks to Playworld’s local distributor in Singapore, CT-Art, for finding the perfect location for PlayForm 7 and making this installation happen.

  • Play ought to be challenging

    A recent Washington Post article on rethinking “ultra-safe” playgrounds caught my eye. Featuring the insight of pediatric occupational therapist and play advocate, Angela Honscam, the article echoes the Playworld team’s belief that play equipment must be ‘thrill-provoking’.

    Outdoor unstructured play is meant to be fun and liberating. It plays an important role in fostering creativity and building on motor and sensory skills. However, this holds true only if play is stimulating.

    The modern day playground, as Honscam writes, is colorful but lacks the “thrill” element. There is a lack of age-appropriate equipment and more often than not, children are bored because they don’t see a challenge. Playgrounds such as this can be counter-productive. They inhibit creativity and deprive children of adequate sensory input. This is particularly alarming because it can result in poor motor and sensory skills, poor attention span and other physical issues.

    Much has been written about the importance of play. The perception of it being a frivolous concept is slowly changing. Yet, as people embrace the world of play and decide to build a play space, the emphasis should be on creating an atmosphere that fuels imagination and offers enough of a challenge for children of all ages.

    Is your playground challenging enough?

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