Play Poverty: 43 Reasons We Must Fight It
5 Dec
Play Poverty: 43 Reasons We Must Fight It
Posted by Joanna Francis

By Neve Spicer Play involves imagination, creativity, and innovation. For young people, it is both fun and essential. They need play in order to flex, stretch, and grow their muscles; not only their physical ones, but also the emotional, cognitive, and imaginative muscles of their minds. But here’s the thing… We are seeing a global […]

5 Jul
10 Organisations Bringing Play To Kids All Over The World
Posted by Joanna Francis

Soon after Playground Ideas began, we realised that we were not the only people building playgrounds. We started discovering like-minded individuals and organisations all over the globe, and we decided to create a network, believing that we could do more work, and better work, together than we could apart. And so the Global Play Alliance was born. Today, we’d love to introduce you to some of our fellow global playground builders:

1. Think Playgrounds, Vietnam

A fantastic team working to promote the importance of play and build urban playgrounds in cities across Vietnam

2. East African Playgrounds, Uganda

Tom Gill and Carla Powell, a UK couple started up East African Playgrounds in 2009 and since then have created countless playgrounds across Uganda,3.

3. Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds, UK

The creators of our Loose Parts Play manual, these guys travel the world, sharing their love and enthusiasm of play work and helping bring creative, self directed play spaces to communities in the UK and beyond.

4. Rise Now

Rise Now’s playground program in India, Mexico and across Africa helps bring playgrounds to communities that previously had no designated areas for them and engages the local communities in all aspects of the projects.

5. City of Play, Glasgow, UK.

The City of Play is a unique social enterprise; a multi-disciplined design practice that helps communities create inclusive and engaging ‘places of play’ all across Scotland and beyond.

6. Gudgudee, India

An all female design studio in India that designs and builds interesting, unique play spaces for children.

7. Empower Playgrounds, Ghana

Empower Playgrounds enhances educational opportunities for children in deprived villages in Ghana, West Africa through providing innovative play based learning opportunities.

8. Eco Cabezas, Guatemala

The brain child of Ancris Garcia Cabezas, Eco Cabezas designs and builds eco homes, farms and playgrounds, using the principles of permaculture and priding themselves on inclusive, creative design.

9. Play Pilipinas, the Philippines

“Protecting the adventures of childhood so every child will be ready to face the adventures of life”.

10. Our Global Builders Facebook group has become a great source of ideas, support and inspiration for fellow playground builders the world over.

Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!

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5 Jul
Our 10 Favourite Playgrounds
Posted by Joanna Francis

Playground Ideas, in addition to creating resources that allow you to create your own playgrounds, also consults on and creates custom designs and builds for organisations and community groups.  Every one of Playground Ideas’ designs is customised based on three things (with the overlay of any budgetary constraints). First and foremost, an extensive community consultation. Secondly, stakeholder analysis. And thirdly, an analysis of the environment, including what local materials are available (are the core materials timber, stone, concrete? Are car tires readily available?) and any site constraints and opportunities, for instance, the gradient, water sources available, soil type and plants available etc.

Over our ten years of existence, we’ve had the pleasure and honour of being involved in some wonderful, creative playgrounds that have brought delight and stimulation to the lives of the kids living in those communities. Here are ten of our favourite playground designs:

1. Egypt. This design was something totally different to what we normally do. It was a design created for children living in a completely new city in Egypt, which was basically desert reclamation. So there were no parks, playgrounds or outdoor spaces, nothing but sand dunes and blazing sun. Shopping malls in this new desolate environment were sadly one of the only habitable places outside of the home and our collaborator on this project was concerned that malls and food courts were not suitable places for children to develop healthily. So the remit was to create an oasis of diverse activities, both indoor and outdoor and to encapsulate what play meant for all children.

2. Lares des Flores, Sao Paulo, Brazil. There was a Salvation Army early childhood centre with a great team of teachers who already had a series of steel playground pieces but they were all rusted, dangerous and broken. Next to the site was the local tip, where truckloads of plastic would be brought and burnt. This was just a historical practice, not an official dumpsite and although this project was not our most imaginative, it was in and of itself, an act of resistance against stupid community behaviour. Before we arrived, we got excavators to clear and scrape the entire site back down to soil from its black, plastic crust. Initially, we restored all of the swing frames and replaced swing seats with rubber car tire seats to make them safer. During this time, the welder doing the work became a real advocate for the program because he could see that the health benefits alone were worth championing and mid way through the build, he turned up with a stainless steel slide that he had built and gave it for free. All of the timber work was done using scrap timber from a closed down furniture workshop. On the last day when we turned up for opening day, the teachers had been up half the night installing ‘telephone booths’ which they built out of materials found in the office, a real signal that the teachers were enthusiastic and excited about the playground and its role in their centre.


3. Ruben Playground, Kenya. One of Playground Ideas’ most ambitious builds was the creation of seven play areas dotted throughout the grounds of the Ruben Centre, a primary school for 2,000 kids in the Mukuru slum of Nairobi Kenya. With a population of over 600,000, the Mukuru community of Nairobi is one of Kenya’s largest informal settlements. The centre had a large open area but as it was precious space we essentially created seven mini playgrounds around it. The instructions from the teachers and director was to create not just a playground, but to make the whole space playable. We built a town with market stalls, hospitals and banks, allowing the kids to engage in imaginative play that reflected their own experience. This project was a truly collaborative one, and the project manager had amassed a local team of amazing people, able to problem solve and come up with creative solutions to the various challenges faced along the way. The playground was designed by Elizabeth Moreno, who’s been with us from very early on! You can read more about the project here.


4. Guatemala. We can’t even remember how or when we first met Ancris but she had incredible passion and there was an immediate bond and there’s been an easy collaboration ever since. And when our digital designer Matt Green was burnt out from his corporate job and said “send me anywhere”, Ancris and her home in Guatemala was our first choice. Click here to hear her tell you the rest of the story…


5. PNG. This project was a collaboration between Playground Ideas, the University of Canberra and the Pacific Adventist University (PAU) in PNG and was a prototype for the PAU primary school. It was a stunning location, with the scent of Frangipani hanging thick in the air, and set in the middle of the beautiful rolling hills of the campus, shaded by majestic “rain trees”. PAU as a campus is almost a city unto itself with access to organic food markets, seedlings, a massive forestry project, their own water system and endless undergraduate volunteers. And because of all this, there was an army of highly skilled workers including masons, welders, mechanics, electricians. There was also access to broken machinery, sewerage pipes, and beautiful beach sand. Because the kids were already engaging with a lot of natural elements in the site, nature play was a big theme as was imaginative play, with a thatched house, a stage and sound shell, and a series of shops made from old fridges.


We created the playground design using play-dough on an old fridge door!

6. Danang Vietnam. Part of the 100 Resilient Cities project, and funded on a shoestring budget by the Rockefeller Foundation, Playground Ideas worked with Think Playgrounds (Vietnam) and CCC (people’s committee something or other) to convert a city block in Danang into a space with playgrounds as well as exercise space and a community hub. It had to be fairly generic as it had to be a space able to be used by all members of the community. It was designed for a central area of Danang, which was previously a river bed, but now a very inner city up and coming part of town. The design was done in multiple layers so that initially the site was re-claimed from existing users such as a mechanic, and then turned into a greenspace and then designed from there.


7. Starter kit playground. While Playground Ideas wants everyone to customise their own playground based on their own local needs, we thought that some people might just need a bit of inspiration. So the Starter Kit is a collection of some of our most popular elements and can be used as a starting point for people to get their head around. Of course, we have so many other easy designs available for your use so use this as a jumping off point and then get those imaginations going!

8. Bangladesh. We were approached by a major International NGO to create a prototype playground within a host community of the newly built Rohingya refugee camps. The playground build was funded by IKEA and was done in collaboration with occupational therapists who were working locally with landmine victims and other complex cases, with the intention of making the design an inclusive design for children of all abilities, a space where everyone was welcome and could engage in freely chosen, self directed play, without any obvious “disability” elements. Despite the challenges and complexity due to the refugee crisis, we were able to deliver a high quality playground that incorporated local elements, such as a traditional local fishing boat.


9. Lanna International school, Thailand. We were approached by the school which was growing quickly and opening a new campus and wanted to create a beautiful playground. It was a unique project because the parent group were looking for something natural, progressive and creative for the kids, and this needed to be balanced by the needs of the prestigious, fee paying school. The playground was to be the central part of the school, with every office and classroom looking out onto the site, so it had high impact. Melbourne landscape architect Flynn Hart created the design and we think it balances perfectly the status of the school, with a super adventurous design for the kids.


10. Pakistan. Our most recent project and still ongoing, this project is a collaboration with the same INGO as in Bangladesh, and was created on a barren brown field site with a blank slate, a flat open space with nothing but rubble in a conservative Islamic neighbourhood. We worked with a great hospitable local team, to incorporate the local ceramic work that children were already doing into a central clay molding social area. We customised our Tha Wah car design to reflect the design of the local Pakistani trucks. The design has a good balance of all our playground ideas’ trademark elements of imaginative role play, nature play, physical and sports play and is really reflective of the local area and culture.


Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!

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4 Jul
10 Inspiring TED Talks on Play
Posted by Joanna Francis

I’m sure we’re not the only ones that have at some point, probably in the early hours of the morning, found ourselves falling down a rabbit hole of TED Talks. There is a wealth of inspiring, informative and entertaining content there and the topic of play is no exception. Today, we’ve compiled ten of our favourite TED Talks and other videos about the importance and value of play, beginning with the talk by our very own Marcus Veerman…

1. Marcus Veerman: Ending poverty using plastic cups and wooden spoons.


2. Peter Gray: The decline of Play.


3. Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?


4. Stuart Brown: Play is more than fun.


5. Alison Gopnik: What do babies think?


6. Steve Keil: A manifesto for play, for Bulgaria and beyond.


7. Tim Brown: Tales of Creativity and Play.


8. Jill Vialet: What play can teach us.


9. Takaharu Tezuka: The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen.

Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!

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10 Inspiring TED Talks on Play
4 Jul
10 Favourite DIY Swing Designs
Posted by Joanna Francis

In the last post we talked about some of our most imaginative play elements. But that doesn’t mean that the humble swing is not still a great addition to any playground. And in fact, there’s more than just one way to build one. Here’s a mix of some classics and also some of our more interesting and weird swings. And remember that there are lots of ways to build great, fun, strong swings using materials other than what you typically associate with them.

1. Swing double. Your classic swing set, which has been around forever. Nothing beats that big G-force swing.

2. Basket swing. Our newest swing design! They’re great for little kids and anyone that has trouble sitting up on their own or holding on. It’s a true all abilities element, and you can put them in in any direction. They just can’t fall out!

3. Bucket seat tire toddler. This is a great simple swing, which only has one crutch strap, whereas the basket swing has two.

4. Swing seat best. After trialling dozens of different swing seat options, swing seat best is quite literally what it says. The best design from many experiments in creating something that is super robust and long lasting and yet soft and comfy.

5. Swing truck tire hammock.  These are a great swing for kids who like to feel cushioned and a gentle squeeze while they swing, and also are great to build next to each other so that kids can move on top from one to another.

6. Swing tractor flat maxi hammock. They’re a little bit harder to find, but occasionally you come across a giant tire that’s not steel reinforced. And when that opportunity arises, this is the perfect use for it.


7. Swing seat nursery no welding. Another classic. Not necessarily the most comfortable of swings, but hard to ignore for the fact that they’re so easy to build. It’s often the classic image you’ll have in your mind when you think of a car tire swing and our design has made sure that the back of the children’s knees has a smooth round edge to rest on instead of the often sharp edge that’s usually cut here.

8. Swing monkey. If you think about swinging in a more holistic way and you love offering children activities that require cooperation, the swing monkey is for you. Our design has two rings on it but it could have plenty more.

9. Tear drop swings. Another simple yet great design for a swing and one that lends itself to kids swinging on their tummy, like this child here in PNG.


10. Swing hangers. The most common thing to go wrong in a playground is that the swings break at the top. Our swing hangers, if built with quality materials will last for a long time but are still super cheap and easy to maintain with any local welder.

Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!


10 Favourite DIY Swing Designs