More than just a nice way for children to pass the time, play has an incredibly important role in a child’s development. Self-directed play has many positive effects on the body and brain. Gross motor skills are developed and improved along with social skills, risk awareness, self control and creative thinking for problem solving. There is evidence to suggest that if children miss out on this early stimulation there are long term negative consequences.
However, in many countries possibilities for play are limited. This may be due to the nature of the education system or the lack of opportunity and space for play. The UN predicts that 250 million children will turn 5 years old without reaching full development potential. Many of these children are from lower to middle income families in developing countries.
Playground Ideas is a not for profit organisation that both advocates for the importance of play and supports communities in developing countries to build their own low cost, safe playgrounds. Over the past 11 years they have supported communities in 85, predominantly developing, countries to build thousands of playgrounds.
Playground Ideas provides downloadable ideas, plans and manuals free of charge to empower communities to build their own playgrounds. There are over 150 design ideas all of which can be adapted for different age groups. A 3D design tool enables the design of a completely bespoke playground to suit local needs.
The playgrounds are made with materials that are readily and cheaply available rather than specially designed playground equipment. For example, tyres can be used in many ways to build a variety of activities such as swings and seesaws or to build a sandpit for sensory play. Included in the guides are also ideas for sparking imaginative role play by building a shop front, for example.
The guides come with step by step instructions on how to build each aspect of a playground along with safety information for each piece of equipment. There are also manuals to support the design of inclusive playground spaces so all children can benefit from the playground. Playground Ideas is committed to play-based education and also provides information for educators on how to develop this pedagogy.
Despite studies that show that stimulating play in the early years of a child’s life can improve life chances considerably, for some governments and communities this is somewhat counter intuitive and can present a barrier to play provision. Advocacy of the importance of play has become a central part of the work of Playground Ideas.
While the playgrounds are low cost, a certain level of outlay is inevitable. In order to support local communities to raise the funds required to build their own playgrounds, Playground Ideas offers a fee-free crowdfunding service.
Founder of Playground Ideas, Marcus Veerman, was named as one of the top 100 Global Public Interest Designers.
As of February 2020, Playground Ideas has supported play spaces in more than 4000 communities, in over 143 countried, impacting more than 2 million children.