On a beautiful evening in Stockholm this summer, I was walking to dinner with a friend. Suddenly my eye caught a giant wooden owl on the other side of the street, part of a the playground in Kristineberg’s Slottspark, designed by Danish firm Monstrum. I had heard of their work before and admire the creativity and originality put into each of the firm’s projects, but this was the first time I saw one of their playgrounds in real life.
Forget everything you know about boring, standardized playgrounds. Monstrum’s unique structures encourage play at first glance.
“A good playground should inspire kids to move, says co-fonder Christian Jensen. “What makes our playgrounds unique is that kids are not able to figure out how to use them just by looking at them. They have to explore it. When they are running or climbing through the playground there is not only one right way. They have to consider a lot of options and paths assessing their motor skills and safety. This creates continuous movement.”
The two owls at the Kristineberg playground are 18 feet (5,5 meters) tall and serve as both visual and structural anchors of the area. Around them are slide and tunnels, while the inside has different levels of stairs and ladders. In the evening, their eyes light up.
Next to the owl kind and queen are a cluster of large mushrooms. The ropes and bars connecting them provide climbing challenges of varying levels of difficulty. The large mushroom has a slide and another is a carousel.
The large beetles may look menacing, but up close they are colorful and inviting. The largest one is nearly 30 feet (9 meters) long and, like many other parts of this playground, has a wheelchair access ramp inside.
Scattered around the playground are groups of small ants, seemingly making their way back to the anthill — a chaotic jumble of trunks and ropes in a huge stack. The color-coded sticks indicate climbing routes with different difficulty levels, and inside is a maze with both narrow and wide spaces, also accessible by wheelchair.
A flower box and the three acorns form a play area for the youngest kids. The flower box is actually a large sandbox surrounded by a large deck, and the acorns are playhouses and small climbing structures for brave little ones.
“The success of a playground,” Ole B. Nielsen, the other co-founder, says, “is also measured on its attraction and durability. A well designed playground with a certain wow-factor will keep attracting kids, giving them new experiences and challenges as they grow up. In most of our projects there is also a theme or a little history initiating play and giving children and their parents something to talk about, making the playground something more than just slides and swings.”
At a time when many children spend an increasing amount of time behind a screen, it can be a challenge to get them to go outside and play. With a playground like this nearby, you’d probably have a hard time keeping the kids away — and why would you? Monstrum’s playgrounds encourage creativity, learning, exploration and fun, creating a foundation for a happy, fulfilling life.