Play has several benefits for both children and adults, and it can be much more than just fun and games. Promoting and aiding physical development is another effect of playing, and play helps build cognitive development and social skills. We asked two Danish playground companies how they make their solutions work and meet the challenge of designing for children.
PlayAlive is a Danish company that develops intelligent, computer-based play equipment. PlayAlive is the first company in the world to launch outdoor climbing gyms that connect children’s fascination with the virtual world to physical play and movement, which is a vital need.
One of PlayAlive’s newest products is the e-Wall, which is an interactive learning wall designed to be used indoors or outdoors. The system includes six touch-sensitive mini-computers, which emit sound and different coloured lights, making it possible to create different types of learning sessions incorporating movement and physical activity.
“We want to create play equipment that promotes physical activity. Our products make it possible to compete in everything from electronic tennis to a game called reaction, which is all about reacting fast to beat others. The platform addresses different skills and age groups, from kindergarteners to teenagers and even the elderly,” says Ole H. Clausen, Sales and Marketing Manager at PlayAlive.
According to Clausen, the main aspect of getting their products to function as intended is the games. By combining their knowledge about personalities, including those that prefer action, mind games, fantasy and/or creativity, PlayAlive can create play solutions and games that adapt to different skills and competencies. In this way, the company also aims to target people who are less physically active.
“The unique thing about our solutions is that they consider both age and individual preferences. PlayAlive’s games should be fun but challenging for participants. We use adaptive programs that monitor the level in the game and adjust the challenges,” says Clausen.
When asked about the biggest challenge in creating things for kids, Clausen answered:
“The biggest challenge is acquiring the ability to put oneself in the kids’ place and thereby make solutions that hit home among many different kinds of people, reflecting what children want to do when they are playing”
Where PlayAlive focuses on incorporating modern technology into their products to provide a better experience, the Danish playground company MONSTRUM emphasises artistic and architectural quality in their solutions.
Based in Copenhagen, MONSTRUM’s creative team has a background in fine arts and design. These two disciplines help MONSTRUM create thematic playgrounds that give kids not only the opportunity to climb, slide and swing but also the ability to facilitate fun and play by being a space with plenty of room for fantasy.
“At MONSTRUM, we believe that great playgrounds should reflect the world. Children need to experience a bit of danger and feel the rush involved when they take a chance and luckily land on their feet again. But these motor challenges should of course take place in a safe environment,” says Ole Barslund Nielsen, CEO and Head of Design at MONSTRUM.
MONSTRUM’s playgrounds are designed with scenography that seeks to draw in children and give them an urge for physical activity, from the footway with a view of a rocket to the giant ladybug or blue whale that inspire kids to play. The different playground designs aim to give children a compelling rush long before they have actually crawled up a steep slide or jumped off a swing at full speed.
“The challenge for us is to not only make playgrounds that involve standard play elements but also design playgrounds that can act as sculptures in the landscape and urban space. The playgrounds have to tell us stories just from looking at them, and they should bring a smile to active users and passers-by. Our playgrounds must be more than just playgrounds,” concludes Nielsen.