Problem Solver - August 2007
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Keeping Kids on the Playground

We'd like to come up with a way to encourage children to play longer and more energetically at our playground, and thereby get more exercise.

Besides the tried-and-true playground options, there are innovative new playground systems on the market today that are changing the way kids play and helping them to stay physically fit. For example, a free-style structure is worth considering to achieve your goal. In fact, one leading designer and manufacturer of playground equipment for schools and municipal parks took a look at the traditional playsystems and gave them a refreshing twist. They saw that many existing structures feature set entry and exit points, thus dictating the flow of play. They changed that idea and, instead, created a spherical design that gives kids an infinite number of ways to get in and out and move within the system. This makes the play more kid-centric and also means they get different experiences the entire time they're there and every time they come back.

In these free-style systems, you can have a central structure with arches that support a matrix of horizontal ladders, climbers and slides. It's an unusual design, which makes it eye-catching and attractive for kids of all ages. You'll see kids run up to it with enthusiasm and remain equally excited as they explore the different ways they can play and challenge themselves. They won't get bored with the structure because they're constantly finding imaginative ways to climb into it, around it and on it. You'll also see kids having so much fun that adults won't need to prod them along from one thing to the next. Plus, because it's a self-directed kind of play, children might start at one skill level and access certain parts of the structure, but they can continue to challenge themselves as they get older and stronger, enabling them to climb to different levels. This also makes it appealing for families with kids of different ages, because they can all play on the same playsystem.

An additional benefit of this kind of structure where there are no prescribed on and off points is that there aren't places where kids tend to line up or bunch up. If one spot is busy, they can just go on to another spot. Encouraging physical exertion even further than simply the desire to play, some of these systems don't actually have any kind of platforms to walk over or places to just stand for long periods of time. When a child wants to move from one area to another on the structure, they must use their physical ability to do so, especially their core and upper body muscles. Schools will find this particularly appealing because it means students expend more energy in the short amount of time they typically get for recess. This way, no time is wasted just milling around, and kids get maximum health benefits.

By choosing a park playground structure that entices kids to play longer and harder, you are able to contribute to those kids' healthier lifestyle and long-term well-being.

Landscape Structures Inc.:
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