It’s often said that young children are natural born scientists. Their inclinations to touch, taste and question anything within their eyesight can at times be frustrating, but it’s their way of understanding the world around them. These early scientific discoveries are what drives children’s development.
The best playgrounds are built to foster children’s inquisitive nature and encourage them to learn through play by experimenting with different forces and sensations. We’ve picked out the most inventive playgrounds around the world, where science and play are effortlessly combined. They’re super fun for budding scientists, and their parents too!
The Pythagoras Treadmill, Tel Aviv
As you may have guessed from its title, this treadmill was designed to introduce children to the geometry of shapes. Pythagoras’ Theorem is demonstrated by water inside the contraption, which moves around to fill up the volume of one large square and then the two smaller squares in turn as the wheel rotates.
Children can also get a grasp of the laws of physics as they see how the effects of their motions work to rotate the platform. They’ll love the challenge of trying to keep their balance as they provide motion by walking or running.
The gigantic wheel was designed by ABA Science Play, who specialise in fusing science and engineering with outdoor activity and games. Some of their other wacky innovations include a self-operating elevator slide and a helicopter simulator with a user-generated propeller.
Archimedes Screw, Prague
Children absolutely sand and water units, and this hefty device takes water play to the next level. The Archimedes Screw is just one piece of play equipment that features in the state-of-the-art playgrounds at Malešický park in Prague.
Children simply twist the wheel and watch as water is transported from the bottom of the screw to a basin at the top, following the spiral shape of the equipment. Water play is an essential sensory experience and children will love being splashed as the top basin overflows with the water that they’ve transported. They’ll also have fun testing out how solid materials such as gravel can be transported along the installation too.
Parabolic Reflector Dishes, Brisbane
Playing around with sound is another form of sensory play that children will find novel. Parabolic reflectors have long been used in science, but they’ve only recently made a move to the playground. The metallic dishes can be used to teach children about echoes and the physics of sound in a mind-blowing way.
Children simply stand next to one of the dishes and speak in to it. The sound will be projected outwards and can be heard in the opposite reflector. Even when the reflectors are 30 to 40 metres apart, sound can still be picked up and made to focus. Children will be amazed at hearing their voices amplified throughout the space between the two dishes, and it’s a great way to demonstrate the principles of sound reflection.
Harry Thomas Sr. Playground, Washington D.C.
Again sticking with the theme of geometry, the whimsical spirals of this vibrant playground design are actually rooted in the work of the mathematician Fibonacci.
The Fibonacci sequence is a numeric pattern in which the next number is always the sum of the last two. The curves of the paths and play equipment are shaped in Fibonacci spirals and their measurements have been worked out to precisely match this.
This numerical wonder stimulates both the mind and body. Its inspired by the colours of nature and also features a host of interactive outdoor fitness equipment that can be used by children and adults.
City Museum, Missouri
This quirky masterpiece at the St Louis City Museum has been described by its creators as an “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel”. Its most popular features include two refurbished aeroplanes, a fire engine, a 10-storey slide and 4 foot-wide slinky-like tunnels.
Visitors can also walk through a suspended school bus which is hoisted up at the side of the building with the help of hydraulics. Children can explore, climb, dive and bound around to their heart’s content, and to top it all off, admission is free.