Research shows that 74 percent of kids between the ages of 5 and 12 get less than one hour of outdoor playtime per day. Children 8 years of age and younger spend about 48 minutes a day in front of an iPad or mobile device. Furthermore, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their lives indoors, leaving only 7% of your entire life outdoors. That’s only one half of one day per week outdoors. And we wonder why being overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the United States.
Q. So, I ask you ---In today’s digital world, how can we get children and their families to go outdoors and be more physically active for longer periods of time?
A. We need to be more creative and innovative, think multigenerational, be inclusive and provide more opportunities for communities to be physically active. How? Let’s explore a few concepts.
What is interactive play? Interactive play is where the digital and physical worlds around us meet. In short, it is "real-life gaming.” The electronic video game portion brings challenges, problem-solving and a continued renewal of game options to play. The physical portion brings benefits such as exercise, social interaction, teamwork and experiencing the outdoors in a healthy manner.
Yalp has five interactive play and sports products. Most popular, the Yalp Sona is an interactive dance and play arch. It is an audio-guided play space, specially designed for outdoor use. Games are played by motion and encourage physical activity, learning, and socialization. It provides an awesome workout - 40% more intensive than competitive basketball. Games can be changed and updated regularly to keep continued interest and challenge for the user. Park districts can also track the play statistics—like what games are played the most, how long the equipment was in use, and when it was used.
The Yalp Sutu is an interactive soccer wall containing impact-sensitive panels that measure and react to ball impact. Vivid LED lights and audio speakers give players feedback and encouragement on their performance. Again, these types of interactive real-life gaming products give park districts the ability to change or update games regularly and the mobile app encourages friendly competition among friends, classes, and schools. It’s fun for all ages and ability levels, not just avid sports fans.
Other interactive products include learning and math games, health and nutrition, outdoor DJ booth for those older adolescents and the musically inclined. Interactives of this type are great for city centers and retail areas. Interactive products provide all users of varying abilities the opportunity to stay fit and be physically active, as well as to develop socially and cognitively with appropriate challenges.. The versatility of interactive products makes them one of the most popular multigenerational play activities.
Interactive play is suitable for outdoor parks as well as indoor rec centers. Just like traditional play, interactive play can be performed anywhere. The equipment is designed to be durable, accessible and inclusive for people of all ages and abilities. Communities can easily incorporate one or two of these products into their existing parks and/or recreational facilities to encourage families to be more active, get outdoors and live healthier lifestyles.
Family Fit Zones
Family Fit Zones are multigenerational destination play and fitness parks that provide the entire family an opportunity to play, stay physically active and develop good practices for health and wellness together. Family Fit Zones can vary in size, price point, and layout; but all of them should include a traditional play component, an interactive play and/or sports product, outdoor adult fitness or obstacle course activities, along with shade, site furnishings, and safety surfacing.
We all know what traditional play looks like. Just keep in mind many families will have toddlers, so the 2-5 age group should also be taken into consideration.
Interactive play and sports products, as discussed above, bring children and families outdoors to explore this new “real-life gaming” concept.
Make sure to look for adult outdoor fitness equipment that identifies muscle fitness, balance and flexibility, core and aerobic fitness for a well-rounded total body workout.
Obstacle course events, like GT Challenge Course, make for a great social fitness experience that encourage friends and family to exercise and achieve their personal fitness goals and stay fit while having fun outdoors. The perfect solution for older children and teens looking for something more challenging and different from traditional play.
Freestanding shaded areas or shaded benches, site furnishings and various types of safety surfacing provide comfort and better user experience.
Using these varied play and fitness components will not only give your design its own unique look, but have something that will appeal to all ages, abilities, fitness levels and provide adequate places for caregivers who may need to take a break, or families that want to bring a lunch and stay an extended amount of time.
When planning a Family Fit Zone or a destination play or fitness park, it is important to keep in mind several things: location and accessibility, facilities i.e. restrooms, additional amenities, and future expansion or growth. Is this truly a place where the entire family can find something they like and consider fun or interesting, and/or something they can do together.
Playful landscapes can be defined as play spaces that offer a wide range of open-ended play options and allow people to be creative and use their imagination. Sometimes these playful landscapes can look and feel like a natural environment; using rocks and boulders combined with nets and ropes for climbing. Most designs incorporate the topography of the land where they are building the play space adding another element of play. For example, a hillside slide or terraced play elevation change.
These playful landscapes can also be whimsical in nature, brightly colored using ropes, nets, mounds, and trampolines and push the boundaries of traditional play. They can vary in height and style. Playful landscapes can include theming elements and pieces of playful art or play sculptures. Playspaces like this encourage free play and provide opportunities for safe risk-taking and challenges.
Playful landscape type play spaces often become popular parks drawing visitors from other areas because they are different by design and have non-typical play equipment creating those one-of-kind experiences.
Providing unique recreational play and fitness spaces will not only be a great draw to your community but also promote health and wellness. Research proves those who exercise outdoors tend to exercise more frequently and stay with a fitness program longer than those who work out inside at a gym. Not to mention the added benefits of being outdoors in nature. Those who begin to develop healthier active lifestyles and take an interest in nature at a younger age tend to stay healthy, remain physically active longer and be a good steward of the world around them. Bring new play and fitness concepts to your park district’s community that encourages physical activity and being outdoors in nature.