November 06, 2009

Today in Play: A new electronic playground

Digital PlaygroundA new electronic playground has emerged in Hong Kong, reportedly the first of its kind in Asia. I've written about similar efforts stateside a couple of times, but what intrigues me about this particular setup is that it's geared toward getting kids to learn as much as exercise, and it allows them to track and compare their scores online, which is an interesting new twist on things.

Built by the Finnish Lappset Group, the playground offers games designed to "develop motor skills, muscle control, hand-to-eye coordination, memory, strategies and even math skills,'' according to the TDC.

The concept is to combine digital technology with traditional playground games -- thereby giving children tests, challenges or directions and then keeping scores related to how they respond.

You can read the full article here: Hong Kong playground first in Asia to go digital (The Independent)

I always have mixed feelings when I see these kind of playgrounds being built. On the one hand, anything that gets kids outside and physically active is a good thing, and as someone who enjoys video games I'm admittedly curious to try something like this.

But on the other hand, isn't adding copious electronics and Internet connectivity to a playground overegging the proverbial pudding just a little? Is the thought behind these electronic playspaces that traditional playsets are so passé that no modern kid would ever play on them? And if so, is that accurate, or is there a different problem on our hands - like our intense efforts in making new playgrounds "safe" have pushed them to be perceived as boring to kids?

I also worry about the long-term maintenance and viability of these playsets. I mean, I've gone through three iPods in the past five years - what hope does something this massive, full of circuitry, and subject to the elements have to last for a decade or more? And even before it physically wears out, will the novelty wear off?

What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments.

The photo with this post is from SmartUs.com, the website of the manufacturer of the Hong Kong playground.

"Today in Play" is a regular feature on the KaBOOM! blog, featuring the latest news on play and KaBOOM! media mentions.

the buzz in play, playgrounds