Ironically, more often than not playgrounds aren't very playful. So it is little surprise that kids gravitate towards computer games, and consequently pile on the pounds. Danish firm MONSTRUM has designed a series of fun, quirky and challenging playgrounds that encourage high physical activity and fight childhood obesity. By combining the best of craftsmanship, design and technology, it makes it difficult for any child to resist playing in things like 'The Gigantic Spider', 'Peach Melba' or the 'Bermuda Triangle'.
Playgrounds are serious business as they provide fertile territory for the development of social skills, and offer countless health benefits. Playing in playgrounds thus results in the amelioration of risk from weight gain and disease, and demonstrably improves mental well-being and self-esteem among kids. Therefore, the communication and cooperation that goes on in a playground is critical for a child’s development.
But. Since the heyday of the Adventure Playgrounds on the streets of post-War London, which were constructed entirely out of rubble from the Blitz, allowing kids to play with building-blocks, and traverse the assault courses, playgrounds have arguably lost their 'va-va-voom' - due in large part to the growing insurance culture; the fear of lawsuit from parents’ of injured children has caused public commissioners of playgrounds to be especially risk averse, and risk averse policy has led to the creation of boring, unchallenging, and sterile playgrounds.
But not all risk is bad. In fact, it is exactly what the doctor ordered. According to the official bill on playgrounds: “In play provision exposure to some degree of risk may be of benefit because it satisfies a basic human need and gives children the chance to learn about risk and consequences in a controlled environment”. Enough said – we need a Renaissance of Playgrounds.
The passionate spirits of Ole B. Nielsen and Christian Jensen have been furnishing Denmark’s playscapes with thrilling “playgrounds that don’t shrink from challenging children either physically or mentally” since 2003 with their firm MONSTRUM. In their playscapes, boats tilt at crazy angles, wrecked planes lie broken in half, playhouses provide escape from gigantic spiders, and hidden portals lead to the belly of a whale – so it comes as little surprise that Ole used to be a theatre set designer.
The whimsical playgrounds are imbued with a sense of thrill that most modern playgrounds lack. Not only are they physically challenging, but the fantastical shapes reflect the youthful imaginations of the children where anything is possible.
By investing in children and their well-being, we invest in our future.