Stay on Top of Play Trends

BCI Burke

Parks and recreation spaces are critical to our communities. Monitoring play trends is a way for all of us to keep current on what’s new in all aspects of play and see how we can incorporate the latest research, products and design approaches into our outdoor spaces.

Q. What is the most exciting trend in parks and recreation that you’ve seen?

A. One overall trend that we’re seeing, and loving, is the viewing of public parks and greenspaces as critical infrastructure and as tools to strengthen public health and safety. The positive effects of parks and recreation areas to communities are evident in numerous studies, and the benefits range from higher graduation rates and property values to lower blood pressure, stress and obesity rates. Parks are a tangible reflection of quality of life for communities, and being treated as such elevates the attention and resource allocation they deserve.

Photo Courtesy of BCI Burke

Q. With people spending more time outside, have you noticed activities that are traditional “indoor” activities started moving outside?

A. Short answer—yes. Long answer—yes, during the past two years, we’ve seen a spike in outdoor classrooms and outdoor fitness spaces. Taking learning outside opens children up to new experiences and increases focus and cooperation while allowing them to use their senses and imaginations in ways they can’t indoors. Outdoor fitness opportunities in public spaces increase exercise for community members. This is incredibly important for a variety of reasons, one being the obesity epidemic we are experiencing. Instead of trending down, the trend is up. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22% of children and teens have been classified as obese, up from 19% before 2020. Having well-designed public spaces for children and adults to exercise and move can help combat this alarming trend and bring equity to exercise availability.

Q. What other trends have you noticed?

A. Bringing awe and adventure into our daily lives is something we’ve been studying. Daily doses of awe bring us calm and help us appreciate the world around us. Adventure play engages children and adults and has a high replay value bringing kids and families back into the outdoors time and time again. Designing for awe and adventure is important to both our physical and mental health and helps the outdoors compete for time with screens.

Photo Courtesy of BCI Burke

A trend that has been around for a long time but keeps evolving into better and better products and designs is inclusive play design and the use of Universal Design principles. Creating spaces that are useable for everyone allows all people to get the benefits of play and recreation in a way that is comfortable for them.

Intergenerational play is another trend we see communities embracing. All people of all ages and abilities need to be outdoors for mental and physical health. Gathering spaces that provide entertainment for everyone get the most support and encourage community pride and engagement—two important benefits of public parks and greenspaces.

Q. What types of products and designs support these trends?

A. Fitness courses are an incredible way to get people of all fitness levels and ages exercising together outside. Playful playground furniture shifts the paradigm by bringing comfortable seating into the playspace while providing climbing opportunities for children. Modern play equipment brings adventure and awe into everyday play. High towers and rope tunnel options create replay value and keep children coming back to them again and again.


For More Information

BCI Burke Playgrounds