Playgrounds have always been an important part of childhood. They offer an opportunity for children to play, explore, and socialise with their peers. However, as technology continues to evolve, the way we approach play is also changing. In the future, we can expect playgrounds to look and feel very different from the ones we grew up with. Here are some of the ways that playgrounds might look like in the future.
One of the most exciting possibilities for future playgrounds is the integration of interactive equipment. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) could transform playgrounds by offering immersive experiences that allow children to explore and interact with virtual environments. This technology could allow children to experience the thrill of riding on a roller coaster, without ever leaving the playground.
Additionally, smart equipment could be incorporated to provide real-time feedback to children about their play. For example, a smart basketball hoop could track the number of baskets made and provide tips for improving accuracy. Similarly, a smart climbing wall could track progress and offer personalised challenges to help children improve their skills.
These thoughts also raise additional questions in regards to our interactions with technology. There is a argument to say that time away from ‘technology’ is just as important. We often find it’s difficult to prise screens out of the hands of children. Perhaps technologies like this need to be left at the gate and more natural interactions between humans and the real world are what’s more important. Perhaps there will be even more of a need for this as technology advances.
With the growing concern about climate change and the environment, playgrounds of the future are likely to be designed with sustainability in mind. This could include the use of environmentally-friendly materials, such as recycled plastic or natural materials like wood and stone. Furthermore, playgrounds could be designed to incorporate green spaces and vegetation, providing children with an opportunity to learn about and interact with nature. We have seen a more of a move in this direction in the last few years. Trends in the industry come and go which makes us wonder what’s next.
In addition to promoting sustainability, eco-friendly playground equipment could also incorporate renewable energy sources. For example, solar panels could be integrated into the design to power lighting or charging stations for electronic devices. We have already seen interventions like this within seating in the last public realm redevelopments in central London
As society becomes more inclusive, playgrounds of the future will be designed to accommodate a wider range of abilities and needs. This could include the incorporation of wheelchair-accessible equipment, sensory-rich areas, and equipment designed for children with disabilities.
There seems to be a step a way from the traditional approach to playground design why various items are picked off a shelf to tick the box for budget and requirement. In the future space will be limited, a more site specific approach is often needed. Bespoke playgrounds are more frequently design into the wider landscapes making them more welcoming and user friendly. More thought is put into playground design as a whole as more understanding of their importance is gained.
Furthermore, future playgrounds could be designed to encourage intergenerational play. This would provide opportunities for grandparents and parents to play with their children, creating a more inclusive and multi-generational community. Again, since the pandemic we have had many more requests for mix use play areas. Our designs often extend into outdoor gym equipment areas. We have also successfully seen skatepark equipment integrated in to public realm areas which encourages more interaction between older children and the wider community. This new way of design of public spaces helps bridge the gap between young and old and enriches the communities they serve.
Playground Equipment Safety Enhancements
Safety has always been a top priority for playground designers, but in the future, new technologies will allow for even greater safety enhancements. For example, the use of smart sensors and AI could help detect and prevent accidents before they happen. Similarly, technologies in soft materials and impact-absorbing surfaces could be used to create a safer play environment.
Additionally, new technologies could be used to monitor and control access to the playground, ensuring that children are safe and secure. For example, facial recognition technology could be used to monitor who enters and exits the playground, while RFID tags could be used to track children within the play area.
Playground Lighting Technology
Powered lighting is now cheaper, brighter and more power efficient than it ever has been. It is also now possible to power bright lights with solar powered batteries making lighting play spaces more possible. A well lit playground can be used in the darker months of the winter which allows yearlong use and reduces antisocial behaviour. Perhaps in the future all playgrounds will be make more use of powered light.
Playgrounds of the future will not only be designed for physical play but also for intellectual and cognitive development. The incorporation of educational components into playgrounds could provide children with an opportunity to learn while they play.
For example, playgrounds could incorporate interactive displays that teach children about science, history, or art. Similarly, interactive play equipment could be designed to teach children about numbers, letters, or shapes. As science provides more understanding of the mind and body our playgrounds will most likely evolve with it.
Playgrounds of the future will be designed to encourage socialisation and community building. This could include the incorporation of seating areas, picnic tables, and other amenities that promote socialising and gathering. Furthermore, future playgrounds could be designed to serve as community hubs, hosting events and activities for people of all ages and backgrounds.
In conclusion, the playgrounds of the future are likely to be very different from the ones we grew up with. In many ways they already are. They will be designed with sustainability, inclusivity, safety, and learning in mind through better understanding of human nature. New technologies, such as AR/VR, smart equipment, and sensors, might be integrated to enhance the play experience and promote development. Whether the thirst for new technology translates to the playground is yet to be seen.