Category Archives: Ruben Centre Nairobi

PlaygroundIDEAS – Habitats for Play

Let’s make a rolling wave of applause as PlaygroundIDEAS launches its 150 Days of Play campaign to celebrate providing 150 high quality, low cost playground designs in an open source catalogue. Each day for the next 150 days they will feature a design a day from the design library on the Playground Ideas blog along with examples of how they have been used around the world.


Even though I’m an early riser and start writing in the small hours of the morning, Marcus and the crowd at PlaygroundIDEAS’ Melbourne, Australia home base have got us beat. They’re more than half a day ahead.

As I pen this draft they’re just about ready to grab some Monday lunch. Their news about the 150 free designs (up from 80 one year ago) has been rippling around the world for hours at the speed of play. As I finally push ‘publish’ around 6 Monday morning, supper will be long done in Melbourne.

If you’re not familiar with this international not-for-profit, you’re in for a treat. I immediately fell in love with PlaygroundIDEAS when I first stumbled across them online shortly after getting PlayGroundology up and running.

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They’re distinctive for a variety of reasons not least of which is how the work they do helps light up the faces of disadvantaged kids in communities in Asia, South America and Africa. Then of course, there is the inventiveness and simplicity of the playgrounds and individual play elements in and of themselves, a cross between tire recycling heaven and adventure playgrounds.

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There is also a great grassroots beat coursing through the work that PlaygroundIDEAS is doing with, and on behalf of, kids and play. I heard this firsthand when I interviewed founder and CEO Marcus Veerman a couple of years ago just as he was preparing for one of his first trips to East Africa. With the assistance of international volunteers and funders they help communities and schools make dedicated space for play a reality.

One of their more recent projects involves a playscape for a school in Kenya. A multi station obstacle course is very popular with the kids.


“…the playground is a motivation for kids to come to school, in fact it becomes very hard to get them out of school in the evenings after classes because they want to remain behind and play.”


The scope of the Ruben Centre project in Nairobi is huge and includes football fields, the obstacle course, a geodesic dome made from scrap pipe, a giant see-saw airplane and more. Click through for the story of this primary school with 2,000 kids that now has a rockin’ playground.

Another outstanding characteristic of PlaygroundIDEAS is its use of technology. For the playgrounds and play elements much of the source material is recycled (think tires) and locally available. The building technology is scaled to the environment, primarily people powered and does not rely on large machinery. Then there is the savvy tech use of the interweb to share stories, photos and designs, to build community, recruit volunteers and attract funders.

It’s a pretty complete package. If I could pack up the family tomorrow to volunteer on a build somewhere in this wide world, I’d be looking to Marcus and PlaygroundIDEAS to point me in the right direction.


As part of the 150 Days of Play celebration, PlaygroundIDEAS is hosting two design competitions for creating new elements for the library, one for kid designers and one for adults. Stay tuned to the PlaygroundIDEAS blog for details.

Thanks to Marcus, Elizabeth, the rest of the gang at PlaygroundIDEAS HQ, all the volunteers and funders for making a difference and helping to make the world a better place for kids.

Today is World Habitat Day, celebrated the first Monday in October since 1986. UN Habitat tags it ‘For A Better Urban Future’. Every human habitat should make provision for children’s play. What a great day for PlaygroundIDEAS to launch 150 Days of Play. Listen for the laughter, look for the smiles and you’ll know kids are playing.

All photos and images sourced from PlaygroundIDEAS.