Next Generation Play: Playground trends in 2020 and beyond

Next Generation Play: Playground trends in 2020 and beyond

The playground has occupied a special place in our hearts and minds for generations. But far from the humble playgrounds of our childhoods, with their steel swings, monkey bars and slides, 21st Century playgrounds are bigger, brighter and even more fun thanks to significant advances in playground thinking and design. And they have some seriously good benefits!

As we enter a new year at the start of a new decade, we look at the playground design trends that will take play to exciting new levels in 2020 and beyond.

Playgrounds will be the centrepiece of healthy, connected communities

Modern playgrounds are more than just play spaces, they are community spaces. Their power to help create stronger, healthier communities where people experience a greater sense of belonging and the benefits of an active lifestyle will ensure they are given priority in the planning and design of our cities, towns and schools.

Here and overseas, we are witnessing the development of whole recreation precincts or ‘community wellness hubs’. Often centred around large, destination playgrounds they   include everything from sporting facilities, walking tracks and community gardens to public venues, services and amenities. They are a focal point for community-driven health and wellbeing programs and cultural events run by Councils, neighbourhood groups and community organisations.

Think …

  • Inter-generational play equipment and multiple play zones
  • Unique attractions that are a drawcard for locals and tourists alike, e.g. tall towers, mega-slides
  • Workout stations and circuits suitable for a range of fitness levels
  • Multi-purpose sports facilities, e.g. basketball, handball, skate and bike parks
  • Outdoor catering facilities, e.g. BBQs.

The inclusive playground will become the norm

‘Play for all’ has become a consistent theme in modern playground planning and design. Before too long, we believe the inclusive playground will be the norm as its crucial role in providing physical, emotional and social development opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and cultures becomes more widely accepted.

Inclusive play spaces are easy to access, easy to move  within and provide a range of play options. Intelligent, thoughtful playground design and equipment breaks down the barriers to play experienced by individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities, and fosters community understanding and respect for diversity and difference.

Think …

  • Pathways, play surfaces and playground configuration that facilitates easy access, navigation and use
  • Interactive equipment including swings, e.g. basket swings, face-to-face adult/child swings
  • Sensory play equipment, e.g. sand and water play, and musical instruments
  • Signage incorporating braille or learning opportunities (e.g. spelling, sign language)
  • Accessible equipment and amenities, e.g. wheelchair accessible trampolines and carousels.

It will be the era of the eco playground

Nature-based play is an established trend and one we expect to grow given its well-documented ability to inspire creative and imaginative play and an appreciation for the natural world. However, what we predict is that our quest for a cleaner, greener environment and response to the changes in our climate will exert an even greater influence on playground planning and design in the coming decade. The era of the eco playground is here!

Priority will be given to creating new greenspaces and enhancing existing ones. Playground design will not only draw inspiration from the natural environment and the cultural heritage of a location, it will draw attention to it and contribute to its preservation. Meanwhile, sustainability principles and climate factors (e.g. heatwaves, drought) will affect our choices with respect to landscaping and the types of play equipment and supporting structures required and the materials we use to construct them.

Think …

  • Play equipment made from sustainably sourced and recycled materials
  • Native landscaping and / or inclusion of community gardens
  • More shade / shelter structures to combat higher summer temperatures
  • Water management and conservation
  • Interpretive signage that builds environmental and cultural awareness.

We will tap into the benefits of playground technology

Without question, the incorporation of technology into the playground experience will be a major trend this decade. The potential to use technology to engage children of all ages in active play is huge and to date, largely untapped in Australia and overseas. Playground Centre is partnering with world leaders in the development of game-based playground technology, Biba, to turn screen time into play time for Australian and New Zealand kids.

In addition, there’s growing awareness of how technology can give parents, carers, schools, councils and child health organisations the ability to monitor play levels and development outcomes, as well as playground usage. Imagine what we can do if we use this data to build better playgrounds that boost the mental and physical benefits of play for our kids?

Think …

  • Playgrounds become virtual landscapes that ignite young imaginations
  • Interactive games drive engagement between parents/carers and kids, and peer-to-peer relationships
  • Mobile technology encourages older children / teenagers to get active outdoors
  • Data aids motivational development, psychology and health research
  • Technology that enhances playground safety and surveillance
  • Usage data informs capital investment and playground planning.

Is a new or improved playground on your to do list for 2020? Contact us today for an obligation-free consultation or click here to request a copy of The Great 8: The 8 Principles of a Best Practice Playground.