How Play Everywhere Design Challenge Winners Get Kids Moving in Unconventional Ways Link copied!

September 17, 2021


Through the Play Everywhere Design Challenge, KABOOM! and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, aim to provide kids in Southeast Michigan and Western New York communities with equitable opportunities to play. To create those opportunities in unexpected places, our community partners get creative. With design innovations ranging from a “Playful Dragon” to the repurposing of environmental infrastructure, Play Everywhere innovations feature unique design features that prompt kids to get active and play.

Since 2008, a coalition of community organizations in Rochester, NY have been working to advance safer play spaces across the city. In 2015, the grassroots coalition of residents, local businesses, and community partners came together to create the Play Walk – a downtown sidewalk trail that encourages kids and community members to “play along the way” by installing interactive features at popular gathering points. In 2018, Common Ground Health received funding from the Play Everywhere Design Challenge to build out the Play Walk, using musical elements, sidewalk games, mirrors, free little libraries and murals that engage kids and families to play as they go to the library, wait for the bus, attend the Strong Museum of Play, or go to classes at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center.

With a second round of support from the 2019 Play Everywhere Design Challenge, Common Ground Health collaborated Urban Conga to bring a new section of the Play Walk to life. “The Ripple,” which opened in May 2021, is an interactive attraction featuring changing colors and pixelated illustrations which leads children and youth into Rochester’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Visitors can rotate the panels to reveal different pixelated illustrations, and the panels constantly change and adapt to whomever is using it.
The Ripple and the PlayWalk collectively offer Rochester children a great reason to get outside and play along the fun, innovative Downtown trail, according to Jenn Beideman, advocacy manager for Common Ground Health.

“Our coalition members have echoed national experts by saying play is all the more critical to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic’s traumatic impact on our children,” said Jenn Beideman, Advocacy Manager for Common Ground Health. By creating play everywhere moments like the Play Walk across the city – we are giving children and families yet another reason to get out, and enjoy the many benefits play brings to their overall health and development.”

In May 2021, Orion Township community members celebrated the opening of the Playful Dragon, a brand-new “pocket park” designed to get kids and their caretakers moving together as they utilize the new boulevard on Baldwin Road, a walkable and bikeable thoroughfare that connects both sides of Orion Township. In honor of the local school mascot, the Lake Orion Dragons, the playspace took shape as a massive dragon, featuring climbing structures for the wings and a slide for the mouth. A storybook trail is showcased on a path going around the dragon. The storybook was written and illustrated by local high school art students. The pathway also features different animal footprints set into the cement.

Orion Township entered the Play Everywhere Design Challenge with hopes of using the new playspace to expand access to physical activity while also bolstering community pride. Previously, the closest playspace to this section of the township was 4.5 miles away. Now, with access to an innovative playspace, kids and their caretakers living in this mostly-residential area can more easily integrate imaginative and active play into their daily lives.

All I can say is… Wow! The Playful Dragon is incredible! The kids love climbing on his wings, going up his tail, and sliding down his tongue. The storybook trail and animal prints along the path really add a unique and interactive feature to this play area. It’s now our favorite place to visit!

Jessica H., Parent

In Jamestown, bright blue sculptural structures take center stage. These structures are doloses – large concrete elements that are typically arranged as breakwaters protecting shorelines from the impact of water. Coated in rubber and painted a bright blue reminiscent of the sea, the doloses have been repurposed as structures where kids in the Jamestown area can engage in unstructured play.

“The open-ended nature of the space allows for many interpretations and encourages creativity. Without the typical playground prompts (such as swings or slides) kids move and test their abilities including crawling, climbing and jumping, while the abstract forms lend themselves to being recast as mountains, spaceships, or anything the kids want to imagine them to be,” said Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik, the lead designers for Breakwater.

Breakwater provides an unexpected opportunity for play along the Riverwalk Bike Path, which offers cyclists a safe, alternative route from a four-lane road. Also in close proximity to the Chadakoin Park, the eye-catching elements are intended to attract visitors to not only the playspace but the walking trail, providing opportunities for passersby and neighborhood residents alike to get active and engage socially with one another.