16 of the Coolest Playgrounds in the World

The modern playground is, to be honest, sort of boring. The bright-colored, safety-engineered plastic of cookie-cutter prefabricated jungle gyms can’t make up for the thrilling fun of admittedly rickety seesaws, slick metal slides that burned on sunny days, and super-fast merry-go-rounds. 

And that’s terrible for kids. Scientists have found that playing is integral to developing a healthy brain and body. One 2011 study from a pair of Norwegian psychologists concluded that taking risks (and overcoming them) during play is an important part of child development, and that preventing children from encountering risks may lead them to develop anxiety. Thus, playgrounds where children can climb high, spin fast, and potentially hurt themselves aren’t just more fun—they’re better for childhood development. 

A diverse range of playground activities is also important to keep kids active, which improves motor skills [PDF] and combats childhood obesity. In a study of schoolchildren in Denmark, concrete play areas encouraged much less movement than other playground types. Children playing on paved surfaces that weren’t marked for any specific games, like basketball, tended to stay sedentary, while kids moved more on grass and play equipment. 

Luckily, while most playgrounds have traded fun for lawsuit protection, there are still a few places in the world where unfettered childhood joy is possible. Here are some of the coolest playgrounds from around the globe. 

1. NEPTUNE PARK

A 30-foot-tall climbing pyramid (taller than most two-story homes) in Saratoga Springs, Utah opened in 2012.The pyramid’s structure is metal, and rope netting inside prevents kids from falling more than 6 feet. It designers tout it as the largest play pyramid in the western hemisphere. 

2. SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL WORLDS


Image Credit: Snohetta

Kids may not care about the history of the Austrian crystal company Swarovski, but the company museum offers a playground that makes any tour worthwhile. The four-story play tower features a trampoline, rope swings, a 45-foot-tall climbing net, and slides. 

3. LAKE MACQUARIE VARIETY PLAYGROUND


Image Credit: City of Lake Macquarie

This Australian playground is designed for children of all abilities, including visually impaired and wheelchair-bound kids. It’s got a 40-foot climbing tower, a 30-foot spiral slide, a zipline, wheelchair-accessible swings and a play boat, musical play equipment, and more. 

4. IMAGINATION PLAYGROUND 


At this playground in New York City, designed by acclaimed architect David Rockwell, kids make their own fun. This minimalist park is designed to get kids playing with little more than sand, water, and a set of blocks. Kids can stack, connect, and maneuver the abstractly shaped blue blocks into new playthings.

5. NAGASAKI SCHOOL

In Nagasaki, Japan, a multi-story urban school provides a new way to have recess. A playground on the roof deck of a school designed by architects Hibinosekkei has a climbing net that leads up from a playroom downstairs. Inside, there’s even a fireman’s pole to slide down! See it here.

6. HARRY THOMAS SR. PLAYGROUND


This Washington, D.C. playground is math-themed, taking its design inspiration from the Fibonacci sequence, a numeric pattern in which the next number is always the sum of the last two. The curves of the paths and play equipment are shaped in Fibonacci spirals. 

7. WOODLAND DISCOVERY PLAYGROUND

In a quest to create the playground of the future, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy in Memphis built a park within the woods where kids have to “look for opportunities to slide, climb, run, scramble, swing, build, find and discover,” according to the designers at James Corner Field Operations (also the architects responsible for Manhattan’s High Line). The designers worked with the input of local kids to determine how they wanted to play. The result is a playground separated into different “play nests” with slides, treehouses, climbing nets, sand, and more, all connected by a winding walkway covered in ivy. See it here.

8. THE LAND

Inspired by the junk playgrounds proposed by Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen in the 1930s, this Welsh playground is filled with trash. Largely unimpeded by adult supervision, kids play with hammers, climb trees, build dens, and light fires. The idea is that “adventure playgrounds” allow kids to learn how to take risks and cooperate with each other in ways that playing on a low-slung slide with a watchful adult hovering nearby does not. The trailer above comes from a documentary film about the playground that premiered this past April. 

9. NEW YORK HALL OF SCIENCE 

The New York Hall of Science’s Science Playground in Corona, New York is the largest of its kind in the country. The 60,000-square-foot outdoor play space is designed to let kids explore motion, balance, and simple machines. Kids can play with waterworks, clamber up a giant spider web, ride a giant seesaw—and of course learn the physics behind it all. 

10. WALLHOLLA


Image Credit: Goric

Designed to accommodate a large number of kids in a small space at a school in Purmerend, the Netherlands, Wallholla is the playground equivalent of a skyscraper. The structure packs a lot of activity in a space only a few feet wide. Ribbon-like platforms run throughout a wire mesh cage that 30 kids can climb in, out, and around at the same time. The structure is now being sold in the U.S., too. 

11. TAKINO SUZURAN NATIONAL PARK PLAYGROUND

Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam began turning her crocheted artwork into sculptural playgrounds in the mid-1990s. This one, at Takino Suzuran National Park in Hokkaido, Japan, opened in 2000. The rainbow net took three years to crochet. See it here.

12. CHILDREN'S RAILWAY STATION 

Danish playground designers Monstrum created this indoor playground at the Danish Railway Museum, inspired by the local railway station in the town of Odense in the 1960s. The locomotive-themed playground has a ticket office, a control tower, a train with passenger carriages and an explorable engine compartment, and more. See it here.

13. ANTHILL PLAYGROUND

Monstrum is also responsible for an awesome forest playground at Klelund Dryrehave, a former hunting plantation in Denmark. There’s an 8-foot-tall slide shaped like a giant ant, an anthill to climb, a “lumberjack hut” to picnic in, and a 65-foot-tall watchtower to hang out in. See it here.

14. BOUNCE BELOW



Image Credit: Bounce Below

At Zip World in northern Wales, a Victorian slate mine has been converted into an underground playground with giant trampolines and bouncy nets connected by walkways and slides. The cavernous subterranean play space has different levels, with the highest chamber 180 feet from the floor. This past year, they introduced a kids’ experience that’s designed for young ‘uns 3 to 6 years old. 

15. CITY MUSEUM



Image Credit: Chris857 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

St. Louis’ City Museum is essentially one big giant playground. Inside, it has a giant treehouse and a 10-story spiral slide that you can use to whoosh into the building’s basement. Outside, there’s a 30-foot-tall Ferris wheel on the roof, multiple airplanes you can crawl into, a rope swing, and more. 

16. THE GREEN HEART AT SHAW PARK

Playgrounds don’t have to be just for kids. The Green Heart, an outdoor gym in Kingston upon Hull, England, is an adult playground. It has stationary bikes, step boxes, cross trainers, and more. The grown-up jungle gym is human-powered—it glows at night using energy generated by using the gym equipment. See it here.

The Smithsonian Needs Your Help Transcribing Sally Ride’s Notebooks

Sally Ride in 1984.
Sally Ride in 1984.
Coffeeandcrumbs, NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On June 18, 1983, Sally K. Ride made history when she became the first American woman to travel into space. Now, the Smithsonian Institution is making the history of her incredible decades-long career more accessible to everyone—and they need your help to do it.

The National Air and Space Museum Archives is home to the Sally K. Ride Papers, a collection of 38,640 physical pages (over 23 cubic feet) of material spanning Ride’s professional life as an astronaut, physicist, and educator from the 1970s to 2010s. Those resources have been scanned and used to create an online finding aid—not unlike a table of contents—so researchers can easily navigate through the wealth of information.

To simplify the searching process within that online finding aid, the Smithsonian Institution is asking for volunteers to transcribe documents in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center, a digital hub launched in 2013, where anybody can sign up to type and review historical sources. Three projects from the Sally K. Ride Papers are currently available to transcribe, which include her notes for shuttle training between 1979 and 1981, notes about the Remote Manipulator System Arm (there's one on the International Space Station today), and notes from NASA commissions on which she served. One, for example, was the Rogers Commission, which investigated the causes of the fatal Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

You can find out more about the documents in the projects here, and if you’re interested in joining the forces of “volunpeers,” as the Smithsonian likes to call its transcribers, you can create a new user account here. (All you’ll need is a username and email address.)

Check out more citizen science projects you can participate in at home here.

You Could Get Paid $1000 to Host a Remote The Office Watching Party

NBC
NBC

If getting paid to watch The Office sounds like a dream come true, well, you're in luck. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Overheard on Conference Calls, an online resource that provides helpful guides to navigating the workplace, is paying one diehard fan $1000 to host a remote watch party of The Office.

"In a time when most states in the U.S. are under stay at home orders due to COVID-19 and words like social distancing are common, it can be tough to still remember there are good things out there. Two of those things are friendship and the television show The Office," the company said on their website.

But there are a few important requirements. According to the site, Overheard is looking for someone who loves the show, has accessibility to host a video call, and will watch 15 episodes in the span of one week with their friends.

You also need to be 18 years or older and a current resident of the United States. If you fit all these requirements, simply fill out this form by April 27.

Even if you aren't the lucky winner, you can still host an Office watch party while social distancing. Check out this free browser extension that allows you to watch Netflix with your friends.

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