In The Netherlands, A New Spin On The Playground

The “digital natives” — a.k.a, kids these days — have a lot of entertainment options. What’s going to entice them to get outside, away from the laptop, the Xbox, and all the things you never even knew came installed on your iPhone? A range of innovative new playground designs may offer a glimpse of an answer.

It wasn’t so long ago we brought you wind of The Piezoelectric Playground, a temporary playground and bandstand slated for Belgrade, Serbia, that generates an electric current whenever agitated by movement and vibration (such as that produced by children playing, or even by passing traffic). This current then lights up the structure’s holographic, glass-clad canopy and fiberoptic light projections.  Which, we have to admit, is pretty cool. And yet, does the playground of the future have to be all bells and whistles? Or could an outdoor play area hold kids’ attention simply by being, well, different?

Turbine Playground

image via Fast Company

We like the thinking behind Kinderparadijs Meidoorn, an artistic activity center for kids in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Rather than loading children up on technological education, the center focuses on helping them unplug through interactive arts activities. And yet, for all its Waldorf-like focus on the arts, socialization, and the natural world (the center also features a garden), it also helps to educate kids about renewable energy and recycling via a unique playground (which comes to us via Fast Company).

Perhaps the word ‘recycling’ in conjunction with playgrounds brings to mind your basic set-up composed of old tires and that ubiquitous parks and rec material, Trex. But no — in keeping with the Netherlands’ long history of utilizing wind power, this playground actually makes use of a giant retired wind turbine.

The Rotterdam architecture firm 2012Architecten discovered the availability of these giant turbine blades via a tool it developed called “harvest mapping.” This tool allows the firm to survey the surrounding area for all manner of materials that have reached the end of their useful lives, as well as “seconds” and production excesses from nearby manufacturing operations.  These large, durable blades were made to stand up to wind speeds of over 200 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour)–surely they could withstand whatever the youngsters at this activity center threw at them.

Turbine Playground2

image via Fast Company

Add to that an aerodynamic profile and large scale of the turbine “wings” that have found new life in this playground, and you’ve got a recipe for imaginative play that teaches kids some pretty cool lessons about renewable energy and recycling, all in the course of good old-fashioned, heart-pumping fun. (Oh, and lest you worry about safety, these now-stationary rotors had to pass strict safety regulations before being installed, and the entire playground is now fully certified.)

Interested in more playgrounds that teach kids about renewable energy? You may want to check out The Natural Energy Park as well.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.