Engage Families With Playable Public Art

Public art is common in urban areas, from city squares to parks and plazas. For the most part, these public sculptures are meant to be enjoyed visually. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can install public art that gives people of all ages a chance to play and have fun.

Q: We are looking to add some public art in an area where lots of families visit. What should we consider?

A: People of all ages are drawn to public sculpture, and children especially are curious and eager to explore sculpture—touching, climbing and crawling underneath. But unfortunately, most public art isn't designed for more than visual appeal.

Sculpture that merges play into public art can be a good choice for areas frequented by families, encouraging them to share and engage in outdoor spaces in new ways. By installing playable public art, you create an aesthetically pleasing site where people can gather, play and have fun together. Parents and caregivers, grandparents and kids can all engage in play easily.

Q: Does play sculpture provide the same benefits to kids as standard playgrounds?

A: Too often, standardized playgrounds are predictable, lacking in visual interest and even physical challenge. Children who have played on standard playgrounds might come to see them as boring. By adding play sculptures, you create a unique environment that not only appeals to kids' sense of adventure, but also provides the visual impact of sculptural art.

Rather than following a set path "up the steps and down the slide," people can choose how to engage with play sculpture. There is no right or wrong way to play. The way you choose to move in, on and around the sculpture is entirely up to you. Giving children the ability to control the way they play—who they play with and how they play—boosts their self-esteem, builds their problem-solving ability and improves their communication skills.

Engaging children in play—whether on the standard playground in a park or via playable sculpture in the public arena—provides myriad benefits. Play not only builds physical dexterity and strength, but also boosts cognitive and social development.

Play sculpture provides an innovative play environment that transcends expectations and encourages adventure, discovery, improvisation, competition and social interaction.

Q: What else should we consider when selecting play sculpture?

A: When considering installing playable public art, you should talk with professionals who understand the benefits of play, as well as how to create play events that engage children. The visual impact is important, but you also should consider how engaging the sculpture will be to people of all ages. Look for play sculptures that incorporate numerous play elements and allow for a large number of users, especially in busy urban areas. Look for equipment that encourages adults and kids alike to sit, stand, climb, balance, crawl or otherwise explore and have fun together.