Hotel and Resort Developments Thrive with a Great Playground

By David Dionne National Account Executive, Beanstalk Builders | January 27, 2019

In an ever-increasingly competitive hospitality marketplace, owners and operators look to enhance their competitive advantage by providing uniquely positive, memorable experiences.

Hotel and resort owners and operators agree that a hospitality brand holds the potential to create such novel guest experiences through the amenities leaders select for the brand's identity.

What is a really unique and novel amenity?  A really great playground. 

What makes a great playground?  What makes a playground part of a memorable experience? 

These are questions that the design teams at Beanstalk Builders consider when developing exciting play areas that create those memorable experiences. Beanstalk Playgrounds aim to provide numerous play challenges that require the participant to work hard and develop core strengths, as well as mental and physical fitness. Kids are often exhausted after playing on a Beanstalk Playground.

Making Playgrounds Experiential and Memorable

ADA compliant elements of playgrounds add to the excitement for all children as they explore treehouses
A playground provides a save place for children to find new risks and opportunities to grow and increase their skills
A great playground provides a sense of risk to attract a child's attention without the threat of danger
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A great playground can be designed to stimulate a child's imagination. To a child, a bucket of foam toys become swords or lightsabers used to battle pirates or aliens. A bridge becomes a draw bridge that knights use to protect their kingdoms. The playground becomes an arena where children can express themselves without interruption from referees. A playground is a safe place where children can use their imaginations to transport themselves to different worlds while finding new risks and new opportunities to grow and increase their skills. 

A great playground allows children to build confidence through experience and skill building opportunities. Playgrounds are not designed so that children can master something in 30 seconds. Just as life is a process and not an event, children see themselves progressing over time. They learn that by working hard, knuckling down, and focusing, they will master new challenges. By learning to overcome the challenges associated with using a playground, a child learns that through persistence, virtually any goal is achievable.

A prime example of this is when a child slowly begins to learn how to use a rock wall. At first, they might only be able to make it up a third of the wall, however, after days of practice they will begin to see for themselves the progress as they can climb higher and higher.

Children who have a good sense of self-confidence are also less likely to find themselves as victims of bullying. In fact, they tend to stand up and protect their peers from instances of bullying. This comes from being confident in their own physical skills as well as positive interaction with other children, enhancing their hotel or resort experience.

 A great playground can be designed for kids of all abilities and ages. Playgrounds can be ADA compliant and contain ramps to ensure the safety of all participants.  There should be a sense of risk to attract a child's attention without the threat of danger.  Playgrounds provide endless hours of entertainment and the opportunity for social engagement for family members of all ages. 

And, kids should be worn out by playgrounds.  Play areas should be physically taxing so children who arrive full of energy are exhausted when they leave, often requiring the support of a parent to transport them back to their room. The physical and mental exertion of play can have children negotiating with their parents for a return trip to the playground before departing, and a return experience at their hotel next time passing through or visiting the area.

So, what is the underlying philosophy of a great playground design?

What Makes a Great Playground: There are four key elements

The design team at Beanstalk Builders evaluates what's wrong with playgrounds today?  Why are these experiences so often not the reality when spending time at a playground?  Designers have engineered imagination, cooperation, risk, and growth out of playgrounds.  Therefore, we must engineer these key elements back into playground designs.. 

Play is supposed to encourage children to take risks and master new skills, such as balance, coordination, and social interaction. Well-designed playgrounds have elements of intrigue that challenge children. They are designed so children can learn new skills through imitation, repetition, and risk-taking. Many things have to happen for play to be successful and Beanstalk is focused on creating exciting play areas.

Imagination

Kids should see a play structure as anything they want it to be. A playground should offer a variety of challenging events that stimulate children's imaginations as they move around a castle, playhouse, or pirate ship. There should be competition and imagination for both sexes. An adventurous playground is one that provides equal competition for boys and girls and allows them to unlock their imaginations and create their own world. As children learn to incorporate their imagination into the equipment found on a playground, they learn to better express themselves and their ability to communicate also improves.

Cooperation

A playground should be designed for cooperation, so children can play independently or in groups. As ideas flow, children become more receptive to communicating new ideas with others. Through play, children learn the art of negotiation when presented with opposing ideas. They begin to learn life skills such as listening, hearing, and negotiating. When children come together to play with one another on a playground, they learn to create and develop their own games. They have to work together to create the core principles of the game, such as the rules and the boundaries of the game. It also helps to inspire leadership skills within children as they actively take part in the creation of these various games, all culminating to optimize their experience at a resort or hotel.

Playgrounds also foster cooperation among age groups. Many playgrounds are segregated by age and skill sets. In real play, older children learn to help younger children and to set boundaries. Play changes as children grow and children need to understand that their roles change with age. Older children tend to supervise play and build a sense of social responsibility. Playgrounds create a structure that supports children's interactions in a community setting. 

Growth

Growth, both personal and physical, should be a key element in the design of playground equipment and playground areas. An excellent approach to determining how to design a playground area and the elements it contain can be garnered from the Beanstalk method working on the foundation that "There's more to you than you know." Designs developed by Beanstalk Builders encourage kids to take chances and grow. 

Risk

Creating an environment that allows children to take chances, build self-esteem and confidence, and have a sense of fulfillment is the goal of a well-designed playground environment. Our designs include elements that may require children to walk on a shaky bridge, requiring physical skills and confidence to start. While interacting at a playground, children can learn not by conquering, but through a series of failures. And every one of those setbacks or failures becomes a learning experience. As they overcome these challenges, they become bolder. This can be seen when children begin to walk backwards on a shaky bridge or push themselves to traverse the bridge with their eyes closed. When children are afraid to take chances, they tend to become more withdrawn and isolated. This leads these children to grow into young adults who do not handle failure or rejection well. As a result, when they fail at a task or a project, their first response to give up.

ADA Compliant

ADA compliant playgrounds allow all children to get in on the fun. And playgrounds are for all children, regardless of age or disability. ADA compliant play areas foster the basic concepts of promoting imagination, cooperation, risk, and growth for all participants. Children tend to be empathetic to the needs of their peers and consciously accept the rights for all participants to partake in playground activities. A design that is wheelchair accessible or includes a bucket seat zip line for the able-bodied or physically challenged makes the playground a fun and challenging adventure for all. As an additional sideline benefit, children who do not experience any type of physical challenges want to use interact and engage with the equipment. This begins to teach children the importance of tolerance and acceptance when it comes to those children who do face these challenges. As time goes by, these children do not see a child who has a disability, they see their friend – making for a memorable hotel stay for all.

An example of an ADA-compliant playground is the Treehouse playground in Anakeesta that contains a series of six houses with different ways to enter the houses. The simple structures are stable but look quirky and off balance, which adds to the excitement as all children explore the houses.  The treehouse structures, connected by a swinging bridge, provide a great opportunity for outdoor classrooms, camp activities, or a gathering place for the community.

Positive Memorable Experiences

Hotel and resort developments want to create positive, memorable experiences for families. What better way to enhance family time than providing an on-site play area that provides adventure and stimulation for the young at heart? Beanstalk Builders is dedicated to creating imaginative play areas that are easily accessible and allow children to simply do what they do best – play. Playground areas within in resorts should be a natural extension of family-oriented vacations and build on the excitement and natural abilities of children to imagine and grow.   

Mr. Dionne David Dionne is National Account Executive with Beanstalk Builders. Mr. Dionne served on committees at the White House, the National Endowment for the Arts, as Chairman of the National Board of Trustees for the East Coast Greenway Alliance and was appointed the Chairman of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. In 2011 he was one of a select group of individuals to be awarded the title of Trail Champion by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. He currently serves on the advisory Committee of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham as they update the Regional Bicycle Pedestrian Plan. David Dionne can be contacted at 205-983-2407 or dave@beanstalkjourneys.com Please visit http://www.intparkman.com for more information. Extended Biography

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