Children have always had the uncanny ability to take the simplest items and use their imaginations to transform them into fantastic playthings. Cardboard boxes become time machines, blankets hung over tables transform into fortresses, while twigs magically turn into wands or pirate swords.
So why don't playgrounds allow kids to be more creative? After all, there is only so much one can conjure up with conventional swings, slides and small sandboxes! Now thanks to Dan Schreibman and his recently launched company Free Play, things may finally change.
Schreibman came up with the idea after noticing that his own daughters showed no interest in traditional playgrounds and would instead, turn to empty cardboard boxes or the pond in their backyard to entertain themselves. For inspiration, he turned to experimental play-spaces designed by prominent architects like David Rockwell and Frank Gehry. While these haute-design structures were dynamic and interesting, they were out of the price range for most schools and towns. So, Schreibman decided to get some architects to help him create structures that were both inspiring and affordable.
Rather than the typical components you might see at your local park or school, Free Play playgrounds are designed in an abstract form meant to encourage children to be creative and interactive. Why restrict the kids to a pirate ship, when you could provide them with a structure that could be a submarine, cave, castle, and spaceship, all in one? With a child's imagination, Free Play structures can be almost anything they want them to be.
Also, the structures that comprise of modular pieces of equipment are customizable making them easy to fit in just about any park or school. Though at a price of between $30,000 to $55,000 USD apiece, they are slightly more expensive than traditional play structures that cost between $20,000 - $30,000 USD, Schreibman believes that schools and cities will be willing to invest in structures that their young audience will never lose interest in.
Free Play currently has four pieces of equipment for kids to choose from. There is The Maze, a blue box structure with many holes to climb, crawl, and peek through, an Ant Farm that comprises of a series of suspended tubes that can be crawled through, over, or under, the Weeping Willow that consists of a dense cluster of ropes to be swung on or swatted about and last but not least, the Corn Field with stalks that sway when touched. Everyone of these pieces of equipment is designed so that children can make their own decisions about how to play with them - which means that they are not only exercising their bodies but also, their minds!
The first Free Play playground is scheduled to debut at the new FIFA stadium in the United Arab Emirates, later this month. The structures are also being considered for about a dozen projects all across America and will hopefully make their way to your school or park soon!
Resources: fastcodeisgn.com, freeplay.us.com, formmag.com