We explore how an interactive pathway impacts children’s play patterns in outdoor playgrounds. We describe our experience designing and testing the prototype at various stages of development with twenty children age three to five enrolled in a preschool childcare center. We provide examples of the children’s diverse play patterns and conclude with initial reflections on the design of responsive playground elements. The project was tested with children at the MIT Stata Center Technology Children's Center during the summer 2005.
This work was part of an interdisciplinary group I initiated at the MIT Media Laboratory. Our goal was to envision and conceive playground activities for the 21st century. The playground fulfills a central role in children's lives because it represents an island of freedom within their everyday experience. In these special places, children of different ages play, interact, challenge themselves, and progress at their own pace. Given the importance of playgrounds in the past, what will be their role in the future? In recent decades, technology has entered almost every field of our lives and our children's lives. Can technology enhance children’s play experiences in the playground, or should playgrounds stay technology-free?