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Playground Ideas: Supporting anyone, anywhere, to create time and space for play using only local tools, materials and skills

Playground Ideas equips anyone, anywhere to build creative, unique spaces for play using only local materials, tools, and skills. Through our open-source website and DIY plans, we have supported over 500 communities in 72 countries to build play spaces, impacting over 250,000 children.

Photo of Elizabeth Moreno
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The Problem

Today, more children than ever are attending school, but access to education alone is not enough for a child to thrive. A staggering 60-66% of children in the developing world leave school without the literacy skills to even manage daily living and employment tasks. Early Childhood Education is essential to later life success, but poorly trained teachers, rote learning and packed classrooms in barren spaces are creating an environment that leaves children ill-equipped for the challenges of real life.

The Solution

Research shows that children who have regular access to play, particularly in their first years, have higher IQs, are more self-regulated and creative, and as adults have less criminal activity, higher education levels, and higher wages. The availability of a play space provides a child with these direct benefits, regardless of the quality of education they may have access to. Playground Ideas supports communities to build their own play spaces using only local materials, tools, and labor. Through our website, we offer a 5-step building manual, safety manual, and over 150 DIY plans. 


Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

Impact To date, 516 playground projects have been added to our site. Many more use our resources without adding project profiles as our site receives over 4,000 hits per month. These projects span nearly every country in the developing world and have impacted over 250,000 children.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

Playground Ideas began in 2007 as a playground building project where a group of volunteers built 40 playgrounds along the Thai/Burma border over the course of two years. After our initial builds in Thailand, an assessment was carried out to evaluate impact. The data showed that the playgrounds improved school attendance rates and teachers reported that the playgrounds made their jobs easier in the classroom as the children were more focused and motivated. The playgrounds also had a positive effect on the local community as both Thai and Burmese children played together, building relationships previously unlikely. By utilizing an open source approach, we have shifted our on-the-ground work to online knowledge sharing, enabling exponential growth at a low cost. Our current model allows us to expand access to play globally at a cost of only $1.50 per child and dropping as our impact grows.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

The lack of play is a global epidemic and our children need an army of passionate people on their side. Our organization is made up of a collaboration of community builders, NGOs, volunteers, architects, designers, and child development experts. Join us.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.

Attachments (1)

Playground Ideas At a Glance.docx

An overview of Playground Ideas' work.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Eduardo Babo

Really cool your idea, Elizabeth. Play is a very important activity for children and many of them don't have this opportunity. There are a lot of countries that OpenIDEO is trying to help and they are different, with diferent cultures and even diferent material availability to build the playgrounds. Do you know how to solve this problem, the difference between areas? Or this project will be focused in a specific place?

Photo of Elizabeth Moreno

Thanks for your comment, Eduardo! Great questions. It's true that a "one-size-fits-all" playground model would never work globally. Our "Five Step Playground Building Manual," begins with a "Listen" stage that guides the build leader through gathering ideas and input from the community about what kinds of play opportunities are present and what kinds of materials are available locally. It is important to celebrate unique local games and play traditions in the design of the space. All of the designs on our site are also customizable depending on what materials are available and appropriate. For example, many playgrounds built in southeast Asia have used bamboo, a sustainable material readily available. In East Africa, termites are a big problem, so timber structures are not advisable. Instead many of the play spaces there have utilized used car tire designs as they are durable and cheaply available locally. You can download our 5-Step Manual here:

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