Sunday, February 20, 2011

sculptural and artistic elements in children's playscapes

Did you ever see these stunning friendship poles from Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning?

Image: Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning

Image:  Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning
These friendship poles started my crush on all things poles, posts and logs in children's playscapes.  I have been accruing quite a collection:

I like them because they add a a touch of beauty, a touch of wacky, and a touch of originality to a playscape.  But I had to have a think about what such artistic and sculptural elements. seemingly with no play function, bring to the child?

Totem Poles at Hurstbridge Learning Co-op in Melbourne

Joe Frost and James Talbot have this to say in the article "Magical Playscapes":
A rarity, unusualness, specialness, unpredictability and incongruity—these are all things that intrigue youngsters. To come upon something that cannot be immediately categorized stretches the limits of a child, again opening the way for a multitude of interpretations.

 A playground having something not found anywhere else in town in unique. A sense of pride and specialness is endowed to those using it— an elevated state that a mere catalogue playscape will never provide.

What seems exotic to children? Spiral columns? Onion-shaped domes? Pointed arches? Filigree? “Jewels” and metallic colors? A yurt? Mosaics? Hieroglyphics? A sculpture of an elephant or lion? Palm trees? A turret? Zebra skin patterns? Keep an eye out for what intrigues them and put it in their play space. Make it as detailed, multifaceted, lavish and lovingly as you can.
Hurstbridge Learning Co-op

And Rusty Keeler tells us in his article "20 Ways to Create Play Environments for the Soul":

Children’s art, teacher’s art, parents’ art, local artists’ art — children should be surrounded by touchable, huggable, changeable, creative contraptions for play. Think about adding sculpture —benches, whirlygigs, concrete abstract animal forms, chain sawed logs, and sound elements. Add mocaics— murals, stepping stones, wall tiles, benches, tables. Paint a mural. Build a dance stage. Create a messy outdoor art space for daily creations! (with water nearby)

We have some beautifully smooth gum tree branches lying around outside preschool.  I've had my eye on them for some time.  I wonder what they would look like painted by the children and 'planted' in the playground?


  1. I guess just like the rest of us Jen, children just like having beautiful things around AND if they get to make those things beautiful themselves ... well even better. Another BEAUTIFUL post my friend!
    Donna :) :)

  2. Loving the continued inspiration. I wonder what ideas my little munchkins will come up with this year after the photo inspirations for our rock garden/art display this year.... Thank you for continuing to share and keep me thinking!

  3. As a mum and a landscape architect, I really love your posts. We've had lots of fun this week in our hastily constructed mud kitchen, we used old bricks and boards and pots and pans - all inspired by what I've found here. We've set up some plastic chicken wire fencing for weaving my old scraps of fabric in, too, which is like art in the making. I'm thinking about some coloured poles now! Thanks for your enthusiasm - it's infectious!

  4. these are, again, gorgeous! Will be sharing today in Sunday Surf. Thank you! Really enjoy your blog and looking forward to more of these great ideas!

  5. ooooooooh, paint them! i love this post. i think i might go scrounge around for some posts.

    thank you!

  6. I am really enjoying your posts on design. Love the Kandinsky-esk structure particularly. Thanks :)

  7. Jenny, thank you again for all the incredible research you do, then share with us. It's so inspiring! I can't wait to start making our poles, or posts, or turrets or whatever!

  8. Hello, I am also a kindergarten teacher in Portugal.
    Very creative! Congratulations, I'll be a regular visitor ...
    See our blog at
    Keep up the good work ...
    Regards, Teresa Rebelo

  9. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Donna: How did you put your posts into the ground?

    Sara: We did weaving like that last year using garden mesh and it worked a treat (I think I did a post about it). So happy you are enjoying the blog!

    mamapoeke: My pleasure! There are so many inspirational things around the web it seems a shame not to share them.

    Shar: That one tickles my fancy too.

    Tom: I thought of you when I posted this: I could see you whipping up something spectacular!

    Theresa: Welcome! Always a treat to meet another preschool teacher. I'll hop over now and visit your blog.

  10. Jenny we put our poles into deep holes ... we did plan on concreting them in but they held up very well on their own. Luckily we didn't concrete them because several months later some of the children decided they were too far away and wanted them to be moved closer to their 'camping/cooking/tent area. I have looked through the fence recently and I see they keep popping up in different places all over they yard!
    Donna :) :)

  11. Wow - I just found your blog and I'm so inspired. My girls go to a Waldorf preschool that we love. I have been incorporating many of the indoor play items into our house. Your blog has given me many things to think about our garden. Thank you!

  12. I'm so inspired, Jenny! The quotes are the perfect accompaniment to the photos, and I'll be referring to them often as I consider how we can beautify our scrappy yard. I recently started a Pinterest page on magical outdoor spaces and just dropped in some photos from your blog:

  13. It is nice for adding sculpture —benches, whirlygigs, concrete abstract animal forms, chain sawed logs, and sound elements.