If you do your research (and we’ve done ours), you’ll find that play equals collaboration and creativity. Through the social interactions framed by play, children develop their language and negotiation skills, learn to understand rules and expectations, and boost their emotional self-regulation. Interaction with and manipulation of objects in the environment also improves their problem-solving, critical thinking, and other cognitive abilities. Add a little risk to the mix, and you’ll have children who are adept at assessing their surroundings and making better decisions. It might seem like a fun game, but it’s serious business!
Besides, it goes without saying that playing outdoors puts a smile on our face and is healthy for us, right? Why is it then that children playing freely in the street is an ever disappearing sight? Where are the public spaces which allow children to organise their own play unsupervised by adults? How comfortable are we observing children playing with what aren’t really toys? These are some of the questions we wanted to address during the festival „The Future is Now” which happened in August 2022 on Rävala street on the initiative of Tallinn City Council. The city of the future belongs to all people and children just the same have the right to move freely, enjoy and adapt it to their own needs, desires and dreams.
The city of the future is collaborative and inclusive, and so was the temporary installation of playable objects Vivita set up and let children and adults alike construct and destruct during the festival. Inspired by the theory of loose parts play and adventure playgrounds, we used pipes as infrastructural elements that usually remain invisible underground. A simple combination of fixed and loose elements of different sizes, easy enough to move, connect and disconnect even for the youngest ones. It invited passers by of all ages to interpret and engage with it in imaginative, unscripted and unexpected ways. Our presence on site was hardly necessary or noticed: play and experimentation unfolded naturally. The playable pipes served as a conversation starter and an element of activation that made children’s play visible and highlighted the need for them to be able to generate their own play spaces in the city.
As the success of the first free play area unfolded during the festival "The Future is Now" in August 2022, the team at Vivita was thrilled to witness the enthusiasm and creativity sparked among the children and adults alike. The positive feedback and interest from the community inspired us to take the concept of the loose part free play area to new heights. Building on the lessons learned and driven by our belief in the potential of children, we embarked on a journey to make the play area both transportable and durable.
The year that followed saw dedicated efforts from the Vivita team to refine and innovate the play area design. Instead of anchoring the pipes into the ground, we experimented with attaching them to custom-shaped plates. These plates not only provided stability and durability but also made the play area easily movable to different locations. This allowed us to take the concept beyond a single festival and bring it to various neighbourhoods and public spaces across Tallinn and even in Vilnius.
One of the most significant outcomes of this development was the opportunity it presented for the children themselves to play an active role in designing and preparing the play area. Under adult guidance, kids were encouraged to engage in collaborative decision-making processes, allowing them to take ownership and responsibility for the spaces they would play in. Involving children in this manner not only improved their cognitive and physical skills but also empowered them to work with tools that were traditionally considered "dangerous" under adult supervision. This experience fostered a sense of pride and accomplishment as they witnessed their ideas taking shape and becoming a reality.
At Vivita, we firmly believe in trusting children more in the process of decision-making and doing. This transportable, collaborative play area became a testament to the capabilities of children to adapt, learn, and create their own environments for play and exploration. As we witnessed their growing confidence and imaginative play in these spaces, it further reinforced our mission to support the future generation's development of 21st-century skills through engaging, self-directed play.
Through these innovative and inclusive play areas, we continued to contribute to the larger vision of the city of the future—a city that belongs to all its residents, including children, and provides them with the freedom to move, explore, and shape their environment according to their needs, desires, and dreams. By nurturing these spaces and advocating for more inclusive and child-friendly public areas, we aim to create a lasting impact on the well-being and growth of the children and the community as a whole.
As we continue to refine and expand our approach to free play and learning spaces, we are excited about the endless possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead. This year, we are excited to announce that Vivita will be taking part in Helsinki Design Week, where we will continue our mission of empowering children to design and create their own play areas. ur goal is not just to create playful installations, but to inspire a mindset shift that places greater value on children's agency and active participation in shaping the world around them.
The journey of the free play area has just begun, and we are committed to making these play spaces a common sight in cities and communities, enriching the lives of children and fostering a future that values collaboration, creativity, and trust in the potential of every individual, no matter their age. The future is now, and we are excited to be a part of shaping it together with the children of today—the leaders of tomorrow.