Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time out on the playground....

...Letting you know that I must take a couple of weeks off from the blog due to pressing demands at my real job, (which is not at all a playground)...

Back soon,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


[t-shirt design reported by swissmiss, available at wireandtwine.
A portion of sales goes to the Children and Nature Network.]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Luxembourg Bike Carousel, 1969

photo and commentary via aprilbaby at flickr.

"The playgrounds in Europe were the coolest. While I loved this ride, my favorite play area was in a park in Salamanca, Spain - where the lanes looked like mini-streets with stop signs and painted lines, so when you rode your bike you felt like a grown-up maneuvering the real road ways. Who knew that I'd grow up to hate the real roads. Back then, it looked like grown-ups were having all the fun. Another favorite playground was Children's Playground in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park; there, they still (I believe) have see-saws (aka teeter-totters). Unfortunately, few parks these days have them due to the lawsuit-fearing safety police. Can you imagine parks today with the equipment above? Think of all the skulls that could be cracked or fingers and toes tangled in spokes. I feel sorry for kids these days. I just read that fewer kids play in playgrounds today. Why? Too boring. They've become so safe children don't even want to waste their time. Who can blame them? The playgrounds in my area look about as much fun as those obstacle courses I make a point of avoiding. "

Monday, August 18, 2008

Playground Risk? A UK analysis

One hears a great deal about the assumed risk of playgrounds, but rarely are the statistics given, even more rarely analyzed or compared to other childhood risk factors.

Here is a reasonable analysis of the problem from the UK:

How risky is play? Should we make sure that every risk to children's health and safety is managed away? How should playground providers reflect the threat of possible legal action? A check on the data about playground accidents and children's injuries produces some interesting results:

Playing in playgrounds is a relatively low risk children's activity
Less than 2% of childhood accidents treated in hospital involve playground accidents
Fatalities in playgrounds are extremely rare
There is one playground fatality every three or four years
This compares to over 100 child pedestrian fatalities per year
And over 500 child fatalities from accidents overall.

However, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says that there are 40,000 child injuries at playgrounds each year. The data above suggests that the vast majority of these must be minor.

RoSPA does though indicate that it believes that measures taken to ensure safety should not take the challenge out of play in open spaces:

RoSPA strongly believes that these areas should be "as safe as necessary - not as safe as possible"


Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Playground Fossil Pits

One of the features in the Omaha Montessori playground featured below is a 'fossil pit', which appears to be a rock pile, presumably with fossil-containing specimens.

I have been to playgrounds where the 'fossil pit' consisted of some fake bones molded in concrete below the sand, which could be dug away to reveal them. The kids of course knew they were fake; their artificial nature and the fact that they were fixed in place led to their being quickly ignored. Much better, I think, to simply include hunks of fossil-containing rock, either in the sand or in a large rock pile. Where I live, the native limestone is full of simple shell and worm fossils. My childhood friends and I spent hours turning over the rocks in my mother's garden in search of them. So if you're putting in a rock edging anyway, simply check the rocks and put the fossil side uppermost.

Another idea enjoyed by children is to 'seed' the sandpit; if you want to keep with the fossil theme you could use shark teeth, but my favorite is simply the black polished rocks used in Oriental gardens. Be prepared to re-seed regularly, as the children will want to keep their treasures.

[image from the Florida fossil fair]

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Montessori Children's Room Playground, Omaha, NE

A combination of DIY-ability and good design is rare....much as I love the 'designer' playgrounds I list on this blog, I have to acknowledge that specialized materials and construction methods may put them out of reach for smaller groups, less affluent communities, volunteers.

So that's why I was so pleased to find this site. There is nothing in this Montessori school playground that requires a crane or a cement truck or the services of an architect, nothing that can't be carried out by a church group or a community welfare organization or even parents with a modicum of skills.


I was unable to locate any information on the designer or installation date. Please enlighten me if you know.
UPDATE: Thanks to reader clowy for letting me know that this design is by Garden Groomers of Omaha. They don't appear to have a website.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

ChildFriendly Cities Manifesto, Stipo et. al., 2004

Take time to peruse this fascinating document generated by Stipo, urban strategy advisors in the Netherlands, who created a team consisting of urban planners, designers, education designers and public space artists to study the need for Child Friendly Cities.

Aldo van Eyck would be so proud.


Our vision: a young and vibrant cityscape. A city that is good for and full of children, is good for everybody...children should have a (visual) place in the cities public place.

Our vision, combined with the basic trends require a new and rich approach. An approach away from the usual short term solutions. Short term solutions like creating places to hang out for youngsters on the edge of the living zone, where they don’t bother us – but where youth mostly don’t want to be (in Dutch “hangplekdenken”). And short term solutions like the formal mini-playgrounds for smaller children (in Dutch “wipkipdenken”).

We (planners and artists) introduce a concept in which we add a layer of playful, tempting and challenging learning opportunities to public space, and to the objects that are already there anyway.

For the Urban Children Environments, we can imagine names like:
hidden inner city adventure (areas with possibilities for creative use of space in inner cities, like ‘TunFun’, using doorways, semi-public alleys, etc.)
tree house area (areas with possibilities for reconsidering the available green public space, creating possibilities for informal playing grounds)
industrial exploration (areas with possibilities for using temporarily empty buildings, made safe and ‘forbidden’ for youngsters)
parking / play field (areas with possibilities for using parking places for playing kids during office hours)
roof top freedom (areas with possibilities for creating safe playing spaces on rooftops)
kerb adventure (areas with possibilities for using street elements like kerbs and artificial holes for plays like stoop ball and play marbles)
alone close by (areas with possibilities for use of semi-public space in concepts of new collectivity where youth can play close to home but independent)
underground cool (areas with possibilities for using space underground for play grounds, new sports, urban exploration, etc.)
forbidden fruits (areas with possibilities for “facilitating” forbidden places appealing for youth to discover).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Singing Swing, Ink Architects, Atlanta, 2003

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.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Adaptable play designs

via minor details, some interesting indoor play equipment whose forms could be adapted for outdoor use: 'bugge' and 'crazyforts'

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tree Tectonics, Urban Studio, Atlanta, 2003

Reminds me of a pirate ship...appropriate that the 'crow's nest' be in a tree.

from the Urban Studio website:

"Tree Tectonics was a part of the Tremendous Treehouse exhibit at The Atlanta Botanical Garden running June 1, 2003 - September 28, 2003. Our concept explores the relationship between architecture and nature. It is a study of movement, structure, and form both in plan and through three-dimensional form. The idea was generated from the tree, the site topography, and winding motion of existing stone stairs set around the tree. The tree provides structural support for a ramp and platform through the use of a cable, arch, & railing suspension system. With its geometries, curves, and structural elements, the tree house embodies a variety of structural and formal expressions found in nature. Varying elevations provide perspectives from ground to canopy expanding the user’s peripheral perception of the site and environment. Tree Tectonics engages the user in an active experience of the environment enabled by architecture. "