The Smart Playground from KOMPAN

The Smart Playground from KOMPAN

By In Kompan, Smart Playground On February 26, 2015

The KOMPAN Smart Playground in brief:

A series of themed playground units with varied physical play activities and items that encourage role-play, themed around three popular Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales: The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and The Tinderbox.

  • Playground units have a QR-code that can be scanned with a smart device to access:
  • Virtual reality scenes from the fairy tales that bring the playground and the fairy-tale characters to life right then and there, making playful interaction and photo shoots with the fairy-tale characters possible.
  • An e-book with a short read/listen version of the fairy tale depicted on the unit, authored by the experts of the Hans Christian Andersen museum in Odense. The fairy tale can be downloaded in 15 languages and will download in the default language of the smart device.
  • Three language and play-based games built around the fairy tales
  • For preschools and schools: teacher’s guides to the individual play units and apps, for children aged 2-8 years


KOMPAN’s approach to play and child development

Children need play for their development. They perceive and learn through play. KOMPAN’s philosophy builds on this fact. Play is encouraged and invited in great playgrounds, with great play equipment. KOMPAN’s main goal is to ensure that the play equipment we design meets the play needs of today’s children, families, teachers and caregivers.

A profound knowledge of the principles of child development is needed to cater for today’s children in play design. However, globalization and digitalization have a huge impact on today‘s family life and children. The KOMPAN Play Institute keeps a keen eye on how cultural and societal changes affect children’s play opportunities and play behavior, and ultimately how these changes affect children’s health, learning and social inclusion. These insights are used to create relevant, fun and contemporary play designs.

Childhood changes: formal child care

Formal child care is a huge change in childhood. In the US alone, the number of children enrolled in formal day care has grown considerably over the last decade. High-quality, formal day care attendance has great benefits on children’s learning in later life, especially for children from socio-economically challenged backgrounds. In fact, the research from prof. James J. Heckman, University of Chicago, states that “A dollar, yen or euro spent on pre-school programs generates a higher return on investment than the same spending on schooling.”

The time spent in child care, however, takes away from time spent at home with a higher adult-to-child ratio. This results in children having less face-to-face adult-child interaction and less communication between children of different ages. This is apparent in young children’s communication skills, which again affect their social skills, cognition and creativity. Since language is the tool for understanding and interacting with the world, the playful promotion of language and communication is high on KOMPAN’s agenda. Nowadays, the free-roaming child is a rare sight. Children are mainly accompanied, guided and instructed by caring adults. Helping these adults help children is fundamental in KOMPAN’s Smart Playground.

Fairy tales – bridging generations and cultures

Fairy tales are the best stories to unite adults and children. Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is one of the world’s most widely translated authors. Through their imaginative plots, his fairy tales impart universal standards for acceptable – or un-acceptable – behavior in a non-patronizing way, leaning heavily on humor, sympathy and empathy. Thus the fairy tales manage to span gaps of time, age, nationality, religion and political view.

Cross-generational cultural sharing is one of the assets often missing from children’s culture today. Designing with Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, KOMPAN’s play design can draw on a rich world of story-telling and cultural heritage that sparks the imagination of children and appeals to adults.

Including children, caregivers and teachers in tests

Heavy user testing is one of the main pillars of KOMPAN product innovation. In the case of the Smart Playground, tests of the physical as well as the digital play units were needed. Testing was done in collaboration with the Holluf Pile School in Odense, Denmark. The school is a hub consisting of a nursery (1-3 year olds), a kindergarten (3-6 year olds) and a school.

The play units were tested in free, guided and instructed play. This gave the KOMPAN Play Institute a chance to observe not only how the children took to the play units and apps, but also how the teacher used them and how the curriculum-compliant exercises worked for educational purposes. It also gave us a chance to make corrections to the design of the play units, the apps and the teacher’s guides.

The Smart Playground – for fun, learning and social inclusion

The Smart Playground provides children with a never-ending source of play inspiration and learning. With the apps, children get an understanding of the fairy tales that they bring back into their role-play in the playground. They interact with the adults, take pictures with their smart devices and basically take play back home with them after having visited the playground. The teachers, parents and caregivers are enthusiastic about the play units, but also about the apps and the teaching materials for both. The feedback has been overwhelming.

The Smart Playground has been awarded for its design and content, mentioning the communication and social dimension in particular. In 2014, the Smart Playground won the French Janus de la Cité design award, the French Observeur Design and the Australian Good Design Award.

Last but not least, the Smart Playground is a hit with children. They improve their communication and cooperation skills noticeably and get inspired for more play. And they have fun while doing so. That’s as good as it gets in KOMPAN’s book.

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