“This is impossible.”
“Only if you believe it is.”
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Although there are a bevy of builders out there in today’s competitive landscape, the manner in which these builders approach playground design in Singapore has not changed much in the past few decades. Mr. Khor Ean Ghee – mastermind behind Singapore’s iconic dragon playground – commented that playgrounds are “generic” and “repeat” themselves, resulting in children lacking interest in them. Essentially, playgrounds these days are too sterile and are devoid of challenge.
Sadly, the children’s lack of interest in playgrounds completely defeats the purpose of these structures. Playgrounds are meant to provide learning opportunities for children to develop physically, socially, emotionally, imaginatively, and cognitively through different types of safe play. Furthermore, children exercise through play, which improves their health and well-being.
Yet the question remains – how are playgrounds meant to achieve these goals if children aren’t interested in them, to begin with? How do we ensure that playgrounds are not only safe for our children but also excite, engage and push the creative boundaries for them – just that little bit – so that they can explore out of their comfort zones and develop far beyond what they learn in schools?
Here at Playpoint, we believe that Design Thinking is the solution to this issue. It applies problem-solving methods and techniques to engage and invite a child’s curiosity and comes in three phases – the analytical phase, the brainstorming phase, and the prototyping phase.
We begin by putting ourselves in the shoes of our children. A child-centric approach, if you will. By doing so, we better understand what interests and excites them. For us to achieve the aim of increasing interaction and communication between young children, we must first emulate their open approach to meeting others and learning about them.
Much like the Cheshire cat, who believes that the belief of impossible will restrict and restrain Alice’s growth, we believe that there are no limitations to creativity when designing playgrounds. Belief in the possible results in a wider range of safe yet thrilling designs that capture and holds the attention of our children.
For example, in Singapore, the land constraint is an issue that architects and designers must contend with.
Playpoint’s solution to this issue? Think tall and build upwards.
We began with Wallholla, a vertical playground that was designed and built for Bishan. The first of its kind, Wallholla was designed in an undulating, ribbon-like manner to encourage children to climb, hide, crawl, swing, slide and jump. When children play on Wallholla, they think of new imaginative ways to play. When they do so, our goal of encouraging their creativity is fulfilled.
Till date, Playpoint has designed and engineered a staggering amount of thirty-seven vertical playgrounds in Singapore. With two more each in Vietnam and Malaysia, that brings the total to nineteen vertical playgrounds in Southeast Asia, far greater a number than anywhere else in the world.
We were presented with a problem and responded to it with a solution unique to us that benefits all.
The process doesn’t just stop at problem-solving. How do we, as designers, push the boundaries to help our children engage in deeper learning through play?
To us, dots represent knowledge. How our children connect these dots of knowledge, however, results in a wisdom that will help them to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them. To drive the connection of these dots, most of our playgrounds are thematic in nature. Some of the fairy tales that we have been inspired by include Alice in Wonderland, and Hansel and Gretel. Other sources of inspiration that we draw from include everyday animals and objects such as jellyfishes, ships, and even seaweed.
By taking fairy tales, animals and objects and integrating them into our themed projects, we invite our children to engage in creative imagination, deeper learning and closer examination of the world we live in. All of these happens even as they’re having fun.
Yet again, our job doesn’t just stop at brainstorming creative new ideas that will incite the curiosity of our children. Although fun and creativity are important, Playpoint also believes that the safety and functionality of a playground are equally as crucial. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our children and the sustainability of our creative designs.
In summary, for Playpoint, Design Thinking is an all-encompassing, child-centric process that carefully considers the possible problems faced by our young ones while they engage in play. By partaking in Design Thinking, we aim to provide creative designs and safe experiences that go above and beyond what any other builder in Singapore can offer.
To quote Lewis Carroll, “When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” We hope children playing will have the same experience – that our playgrounds, creative and fun as they are – will help them experience the elusive fairy tale that Mr Carroll once experienced.
How do you design a distinctive play experience that wins children over? KOMPAN Play institute conducted a study on a refurbished public playground and shares their 5 recommendations for designing attractive playgrounds.