The playground as we know it may soon become a thing of the past. Virtual playgrounds could be the future of creative play for children. Cited as reasons for the development of virtual playgrounds is the lack of space in urban areas and safety concerns over conventional playgrounds. The latter seems a little farfetched, as playgrounds have been a part of our lives for over a century and we seem to have survived without incurring major injuries. Furthermore, playgrounds have undergone many transformations to make them safer.
However strange as the concept may be, there could be some merit in this new type of playground. The idea of a virtual playground, named Playthings is the brainchild of George Michael Brower, founder of Always and Forever Computer Entertainment. This is an interactive media studio based in New York.
Playthings have created a magical playground where musical instruments take the form of food – hotdog xylophones and jellybean harps. The theme is based around children being able to create a musical symphony from virtual food that floats, magically suspended in a world without gravity.
The creators say that it provides children with the opportunity to explore the wildest areas of their imagination without the critical eye of onlookers. Even the smallest room can be transformed into a wonderland of virtual objects with unworldly possibilities.
As novel as the idea may be, it surely misses some of the important reasons why playgrounds are so important to childhood development. Today children are spending too much time indoors through the attraction of computerised gaming. The playground is one of the few attractions left to encourage children to spend time outdoors.
Another important role of the playground is that it develops children’s social skills through the interaction they experience with other children. Then we have the obvious benefit of healthy exercise. The time children spend running and climbing on play equipment is an important part of their physical development.
While the benefits of outdoor playgrounds are obvious, there may well be a place for virtual playgrounds. The weather can often prevent children from playing outdoors and indoor playgrounds can become crowded. On cold, rainy winter days it might be a great idea for children to escape to the wonderland of a virtual playground, where they can indulge their imaginations without sitting in front of the television. Many parents are likely to disagree with the argument that regular playgrounds are an unsafe place for their children to spend their leisure time.
There’s no doubt that the virtual playground will be met with a good deal of enthusiasm, it’s a novel and imaginative idea. Children always love something new and different, as long as they’re having fun.
For all the parents and children who fear that play areas will disappear from our towns and cities, rest assured. It’s very unlikely that virtual playgrounds will ever replace conventional ones. They cannot provide the same level of challenge, stimulation and exercise compared to genuine outdoor playgrounds. Besides this is the fact that we’ve all come to appreciate the playground as an important part of our children’s lives and our own childhoods.