“Tweens”, or children ages 11 and 12, are often forgotten when it comes to playground design and equipment selection. Yet this age group are primary users of playgrounds and often create the climate for which a neighbourhood playground is used and accepted.
How “Tweens” effect a playground:
- Tweens are old enough to go to the playground without adult supervision but too young to go to alone other public places such as the mall.
- Tweens can’t yet drive, so must have public places to meet within a walkable distance from home.
- Tweens consider themselves too old to “play” but will seek out playgrounds to socialize and “hang out” with friends.
- While they consider themselves too old to play, with the provision of interesting and age appropriate activities, “Tweens” create great games and activities on the playground, and can become mentors.
Designing for Tweens:
It is a fact that the “Tween” age group will find its way to the playground, and needs this space as part of their independent social experience. For this group, the playground remains the perfect place to encourage physical activity.
Since “Tweens” seek free and accessible places to socialize, they tend to “hang-out” on the main play structure within a park. This may intimidate younger users, and cause parents and caregivers of toddlers to move to other parks with their younger children.
Tweens need places to gather. Creating a “perching” spot, (a secondary climber or overhead structure away from the main creative) will help all user groups, and keep the playground welcoming for all ages.
“If you have a playground with an abundance of toddler and primary equipment on your playground, the “Tween” age group will be more likely to cause mischief.
If you provide a selection of appropriate and interesting activities for Tweens, you will create a vibrant, healthy and interesting playground for all user groups, and minimize unwanted behaviours on the playground.
Love it or hate it, technology is the “Tween” generation’s present and future. Consider adding technology to the playground to compete with the iPod and create interest for this tech savvy cohort.
Tweens are susceptible to “technology addiction”, a sedentary lifestyle
and prone to obesity.
Modern Design and Interesting Aesthetic
As adults, we tend to favour what we had as children. Playground design has moved rapidly beyond traditional post and deck structures, utilizing new materials and modern design themes. By selecting visually enticing playgrounds with modern designs you will attract “tweens” and create an acceptable place to gather.
Don’t be afraid of height.
Challenge is not the same as risk. While avoiding risky or unsafe products try to incorporate height. Height can be exciting and challenge Tweens to get physical. Structure with Height can be separated from lower structures or equipment for the 2-5 age group.
Try to select products that mimic movements of interest to the Tween age group such as Zip Lines. Include free-standing activities that replicate activities such as snow boarding or wake boarding with side-to-side balancing/motion.
Most Tweens act in groups or pairs. Select opportunities to double up equipment so that friends can enjoy together, or better yet challenge each other. Double slides, double zip lines, or Challenge Courses are perfect. If your playground has swings try to include at least two 2 belt swings side by