BuiltWithNOF
Playground Structures
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These playground structures are made from modeling foam (not polystyrene!) which is lightweight and easy for children to bend and join yet strong enough to make rigid upright models.
With the addition of string, wooden dowels and card you can make all sorts of amazing structures and try out new ideas for rides.

The Playground Structures Project is one of my favourites.

There’s so much more too it than you might first imagine and it’s the type of project which could be tackled by a variety of age groups.

It’s not just about making different rides although that can be great fun and involve all sorts of materials and equipment.

A key part of the project is the design of a whole playground which hopefully will include many of the individual rides designed and made by all of the children.

Designing a playground really makes children think about other people. A playground isn’t for one person. It is used by groups. We might visit a playground with one or two friends of the same age but we also might visit as a family group with people of widely differing ages.

A playground should be designed with the needs of all visitors being taken into account.

Here is a possible outline plan for tackling the playground project...

1. The ‘shapes game’.
A great way to learn or revise 2D shapes. Basic shape vocabulary is important in this project since we have to describe structures.

2. Structures experiments.
Some introductory science experiments about the strength of structures and the materials from which they might be made. eg. testing the strength of a piece of paper as a sheet compared to a cylinder and then again compared to a tightly rolled tube.
A paper cylinder standing on its end can support an amazing weight of books balanced on top of it! This is a fascinating thing for youngsters to observe

Comparing square and triangle shapes made in stiff card, wood or plastic strips.
This shows how some shapes behave differently when we push on them. The triangle seems reluctant to change shape but the square easily changes into a diamond shape. Triangles are a very special ‘strong’ shape!  The shape of something can make a big difference to how strong it is.

3. Playground visit. Playing on the rides and looking at the various shapes and materials in the structures themselves. Discussing how a playground is used and by which age-groups. Good things and bad things about playgrounds.

4. Making playground rides and designing new ones.

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How about this for an original idea from a 5year old - it’s a ‘squareabout’. This was in answer to the challenge of designing a new type of playground ride.

5. Designing a brand new playground starting with an imaginary empty field. Groups can work on large sheets of paper - it’s best to draw and colour each ride on separate small pieces of paper then they can be cut out and moved around on the large sheet then glued in place when the design is finalised.

6. Laying out the various playground rides in an empty space, eg. a carpet area, and discussing the design.
Is it safe? Are the rides too close together or in awkward places? What accidents might happen? How many of each type of ride will you have and why? What will the rides be made from? What will the ground/surface be like? How can we make the visit pleasant for older people? If there is seating where should it be so that adults can keep watch over small children? Are bikes and dogs allowed in? etc. etc.

This discussion can run and run and various groups can show their own playground layouts in turn to the whole class.

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Aerial view of some of the rides. I think there should be more swings! What do you think?

Please write in about your ideas for the playground project.

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