One Thousand Playgrounds

By Elizabeth Moreno

On January 25th, 2016, the Playground Ideas community reached its 1,000th playground. What started with a small band of volunteers building playgrounds along the Thai/Burma border in 2007 has grown into a global network of play advocates.

The Playground Ideas community is diverse. They are builders, community organizers, and NGO workers; parents, teachers, and students. They are artists, architects, designers, and makers. These talented individuals are contributing their skills and passion — working out of their own homes or on-site at playground builds around the world.

They have created resources that enable anyone, anywhere to build a playground using only local tools, materials, and skills. And they’ve built those playgrounds at schools, orphanages, community centers, and public parks. They do it because they believe that every child has the right to play and they do it because they know play is the most important tool to a child has to navigate their world.

This community believes in resources being open-source and free for those who need it most. By investing in this work, their impact has reached beyond physical borders. They are a network of strangers across continents, supporting each other to bring access to play for kids around the world.

Tha Wah was Playground Ideas’ first employee. He led teams of volunteers to build dozens of playgrounds across Thailand (and he’s still at it today!) One of his first original creations was the “Tha Wah Car.” Years later in Uganda, East African Playgrounds, a nonprofit playground building organization, built the “Tha Wah Car” at an orphanage along the banks of the river Nile.

Further north in Uganda, a special slide was designed specifically for a group of toddlers at a daycare centre. The caretakers asked for a slide that wouldn’t get dangerously hot in the equatorial sun, as steel slides often do. The result was a brick and concrete structure, with smooth, slippery floor tiles. Ana, an architect in Guatemala, saw the slide design online and thought she could make it even better. She built an awesome triple-slide version out of rammed soil earthbags instead of bricks.

Little did she know a cooperative of eco-builders in Rwanda would then replicate her earthbag & tile slide across the world. They also used recycled oil barrels to build this cool drum set on their playground.

Socheata, a Playground Ideas intern in the U.S., turned the drum kit design into a step-by-step DIY building guide, allowing anyone, anywhere to download the plans and easily build it on their own. During her internship, Socheata created over 60 step-by-step plans for Playground Ideas’ website.

Another intern in the U.S., Tyler, designed an element called the “Swing Monkey.” He took inspiration from the palm fronds he remembered swinging on as a kid in Panama. They’d hang down low from coconut trees and Tyler and his brother would swing around and around on them. Years later, community build leader Mathias, from Austria, downloaded the step by step instructions for Tyler’s design and built it for a group of kids in the Philippines.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, Jason, a Peace Corps Volunteer, was supporting the PTA of an elementary school in a typhoon affected region to build a safe space for their children to play. Jason is one of many Peace Corps Volunteers who have spearheaded playground projects — like Josh and Jane in Morocco. They set out to build a playground at every school in their remote community and it ended up sparking a wave of DIY play spaces across the country.

Josh and Jane found the resources to design and build playgrounds from local tools and materials at— where, on January 25th, 2016, Jocelyn started a project profile for a recycled community play space in Equador, becoming the 1,000th project in the Playground Ideas community.

1,000 playgrounds across the globe, impacting 500,000 kids.

These are the people who made it happen.

Playground Ideas is a non-profit organization that equips anyone, anywhere to build a stimulating space for play using only local materials, tools, and labor. Get the resources you need to a playground yourself, volunteer, or donate at
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