Encourage Adventurous Play

Playgrounds can get kids moving and socializing, but when you really want to encourage kids to use their imaginations and get adventurous, typical play structures, with their predictable path of play, don't always do the trick. Providing play equipment that encourages free play, with climbing elements, ropes and imaginative features is a wise choice to help kids develop physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and creatively.

Q: We'd like to create a playground that provides a unique play experience that encourages adventure and unguided play. What should we consider?

A: Start by thinking outside the box. The typical post-and-platform playgrounds are common, and kids and their families will be excited and inspired by something that looks and feels different. Three-dimensional net structures can provide free play while also developing motor skills and balance, boosting self-confidence and stimulating imagination.

Three-dimensional rope structures can be found in a wide array of shapes or sizes, from tall towers to ground-level events, and every combination in between. There are no defined entry or exit points, and no specific path to follow as with post-and-platform playgrounds, so kids can choose their own adventure.

A combination of open net structures with closed façade elements can be arranged to inspire kids' imaginations, encouraging exploration and activity. Let them choose whether today's adventure is on a pirate ship or a queen's castle, a magical garden or a school for wizards.

Q: When adding a non-traditional playground, what should we plan?

A: Think about your target group, and then choose the equipment that best suits them. Encourage a wide variety of play and patterns of movement. Climbing equipment can encourage kids to have fun while also training their sense of balance and keeping them active. Other moveable equipment, including swings, rotators and cable rides, are good for all age groups, while smaller children might enjoy sand areas and role-play equipment.

Be sure to remember the grownups, and provide seating and shade so they can keep a comfortable eye on kids at play.

Q: We want to encourage free play for everyone, but our space is limited. What should we consider?

A: Look for larger rope equipment and towers. Large skyscrapers can get both kids and adults engaged in climbing and imaginative play. And when you design play vertically, you don't need such a large footprint. Many sizes of towers can be found with 3-D climbing nets allowing kids to get adventurous and climb high.

Q: Are taller rope towers safe for kids?

A: Rope play equipment is among the safest, when it's properly designed and manufactured. The geometry of the net will limit the distance of any falls, and the size of the openings inside the net helps break the fall.

As with any playground, be sure to provide adequate safety surfacing to protect kids from falls to the surface.