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Play for all

A competition to create innovative playspaces for the developing world

Go Play!, an international non-profit that promotes the importance of play for children in the developing world, is sponsoring a design competition to promote innovate playground designs. The winning design will be built for a school for refugee children along the border of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar).

Construction Complete!

Thanks to all of the entrants who contributed and to the winning design team for helping make this happen. Check it out!

Winners Announced!

Play for all Winner + Honorable Mentions Announced!. Check out all the competition entries. And, stay tuned to Go Play! to see the Monster Playground come to life.

Overall Winner

Honorable Mentions | Overall Design

Honorable Mentions | Innovation

Honorable Mentions | Buildability

Rationale: Why build playgrounds in the developing world?

"Your education should help you use and develop your talents and abilities. It should also help you learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people." (UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, Article 29)

Go Play! directly addresses the importance of play in education in developing countries. While classroom learning is important, play provides a different environment for children to learn and develop skills in order to put their learning into practice daily. Schools in the developing world tend to teach using ROTE learning or call and response methods. Providing other ways for children to learn is critical. Play does this and Go Play! creates spaces to encourage play.
Playgrounds designed and built for children help form the skills needed to face a world in constant flux, where changeability and adaptability is the key to survival.

Education systems all over the world are trying to create learning environments for children that prepare them for a rapidly changing future. To learn to live in such a world, children need much more than basic knowledge. A playground is the place for children to form the building blocks of creative, critical and collaborative thinking: from the invention of games and solutions to complex problems, to negotiating rules and inventing new scenarios -- play is the soil for the planting of new ideas.

Why innovative playgrounds?

If you think back to your own childhood and remember the playgrounds where you used to play and then look at playgrounds today, you will notice that modern playspaces are mostly just updated version of these swings, see saws and slides, just with more brightly colored plastic. The good news is that this equipment is safer and more accessible than what it used to be. Unfortunately, this playground still doesn’t necessarily give the children all they want or need.

Early childhood experts know that children learn best through free play and discovery. Children's free play typically is pleasurable, self-motivated, imaginative, non-goal directed, spontaneous, active, and free of rules imposed by adults. Quality play involves the whole child: gross motor, fine motor, senses, emotion, intellect, individual growth and social interaction. The traditional school or neighborhood playground can meet only a fraction of those needs. (Stoecklin, Vicki. "Creating Playgrounds Kids Love." White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, n.d. Web. 29 Jul 2010.)

Good design has always been important to Go Play!. While we have prototyped a set of successful designs based on traditional playground equipment, Go Play! would like to expand its design base to include more innovative design, leveraging the creativity of designers worldwide.

Competition News + Updates

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will the playground be built?
Where will the playground be built?
What are we looking for in a winning design?
Who is Go Play!?
If my design is selected, do I have to travel to Thailand?
If I can travel to/ within Thailand to assist with design development and construction, how much time should I anticipate and what is the cost of living?
What are some local challenges or problems that might be associated with recycled/ reused tires?
What does a 12’ bamboo pole cost?
Would girls of age 12 or older be using the playground? Is gender-integrated play an issue for the Muslim ethnic group at the school?
What are the most common tires sizes available? Is it possible to have varying tire sizes?
How do the thatch/ leaf roof panels work in construction?
How many nails/ screws are there per kilo and what sizes are available?
How much does a bag of cement weigh?

Will the playground be built?

Yes. The goal of this project is to build the winning design. In fact, the winning design team will win a total of $1000USD towards travel costs to Thailand to direct the building of their design with the help of Go Play!’s project manager.


Where will the playground be built?

The school site will be at a school, called Baan Tha Aj in Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand, just 50 meters from the border of Thailand and Burma. In fact, it is so close to the border, most of the students just cross the Mei River (dividing Burma and Thailand) to come to school. There is a total of close to 1000 students, an ethnic mixture of Thai, Burma and Karen (a local ethnic group). This situation is somewhat rare, as the different ethnic groups are often segregated along ethnic lines. Burmese and Karen migrants are often the object of discrimination and scorn, having a playground at a school of mixed ethnic groups presents an oppurtunity to bring groups together. The school has grades from kindergarten to grade 6 with a total of 8 teachers, with 10 other part-time teachers.

While the school has a population of about 1000 students, the playground design should accommodate about 300 students from Kindergarten to 6th grade.

The school has a great need for a new playground, as the existing steel playground is rusted and in complete disrepair. Typical playgrounds in this area are all welded metal. They are expensive to build and when the welds rust and break, these playgrounds become dangerous and usually have to be abandoned. The school has a rather large space for the playground to be built and the principal and staff are very supportive of the effort.

Click here for more site information.

View Play for all - playground at Baan Tha Aj school in Mae Sot in a larger map


What are we looking for in a winning design?

Innovation: We are interested in designs that create meaningful play experiences, emphasizing free play, exploration and collaboration.

Buildability: Although innovation and creativity are cornerstones to what we want to achieve with this competition, we need to be able to build whatever is designed. Therefore, each playground element will need to be fully designed and documented. Each element will need to be able to be built using simple hand and power tools using the palette of materials described below.

In addition, while the people building the designs will be skilled, they do not typically understand Western construction documents. Therefore, we will ask that the all entries provide construction documents and/or 3d information (images of a physical model or digital model) with which the jury will use to judge an entry. We will ask the winning team to create a 3d physical model with which we will build the winning playground, which will be used to communicate the winning design to the people building the playground.

Safety: The winning entry will be safe and minimize serious injury. See the section below for playground safety resources.

Durability: It is important that consideration be given to making sure that the playground will last over time. Thailand can best be described as tropical and humid for the majority of the country during most of the year. In Central Thailand (where the building site is) the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry. The other season is from May to November and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in the north is at its heaviest.

The combination of monsoon and heat can affect the longevity of materials. Please keep this in mind. It is also suggested that shade for the children be an important part of all entries.

Budget: A total of $2000 USD have been donated for materials for this project. Go Play! and the participating school will be paying for labor costs, including an English speaking project manager from Go Play! Please note: Go Play! will not be contributing wages to the winner during construction of the playground. The land will be donated from the school and some simple hand tools will be donated.

So, can a design cost more than $2000 USD in labor and material costs? Yes and no. If material costs exceed the stated budget, then if selected, the winning design will be responsible for fundraising the difference in budget.

Download the Budget + Costs assumptions

Materials: Go Play! strives to use materials that are local, sustainable and recycled. Both from an affordibility perspective and an environmental perspective, we are really interested for teams to focus their designs using firstly, used tires and secondly, logs.


Who is Go Play!?

Go Play! ( is a not-for-profit organization that designs and builds playspaces as a holistic means of improving education, health and the well-being of children in the developing world.

Go Play! evolved to address the importance of play in education. Play is a genuine expression of a child’s interactions with the world and acts as a response to master how the world works. Classroom learning is important, but play is learning put into practice.

Play is fundamental to a child’s overall development. We believe that all children have the right to play and that all children deserve safe and fun places to do so.

Core Values

  1. Give children access to creative inspiring playspaces to encourage ingenuity, creativity, imagination, problem solving and social skills.
  2. Offer resources and training to assist local teachers to use playspaces in the most effective way.
  3. Promote the importance of education and educational facilities. Go Play! works in areas where the school facilities are usually very basic. We build large, colorful, well-designed spaces, showing the local community that the school, and the playground are important. The playgrounds become places of pride for the children and their parents, and have been shown to increase school attendance and engagement.
  4. Use a Community Development model. Go Play! works with volunteers from the community, parents, the school staff and the children themselves to build playspaces. The act of organizing a playspace can become as important as the product itself. It is our goal that the small act of building a community playspace can act as a catalyst for further positive action in the school and community.
  5. Leverage Technology. A rapidly growing part of our organization is the documentation of our work and leveraging the latest technology to spread that information in an ‘open source’ format with the world.


If my design is selected, do I have to travel to Thailand?

While it is highly encouraged that the winner travels to Thailand to work with the project partners and community to oversee its construction, it is not a requirement. However, please note, the award is intended to assist in the building of the playground. If the winning design team cannot travel to the site, they will only be awarded $300, the rest of the funds ($700) will assist with additional building costs.

If I can travel to/ within Thailand to assist with design development and construction, how much time should I anticipate and what is the cost of living?

The travel commitment would require between 1-2 weeks of regular on-site engagement. Depending on your needs, cost of living is estimated to be between $200-$300 per week.

What are some local challenges or problems that might be associated with recycled/ reused tires?

Shortage: There is very little shortage of motorbike tires. Car tires are a little harder to come by and truck tires are even harder. But motorbike tires and inner tubes (usually with one or more holes in them) are plentiful.

Assembly/Joinery: One way to join tires together is using bolts, washers and nuts. This is typically a reliable way to connect tires.
Available tools: Typical tools will include machetes, an angle grinder, a circular saw, hand saw, electric drill, welding equipment.
Structure/stability? -- We typically use concrete footings for all our elements. These footings measure 12"x12" square.

Durability: This is sort of unavoidable. The extremes of weather, particularly the rainy season, make countering weathering difficult. Tires weather really well, but it is wood that will typically fail first. We use 2-3 layers of paint on wood, and we will use motorbike tires to cover any exposed penetrations into the wood. We are interested in seeing other ideas.

What does a 12’ bamboo pole cost?

Roughly about $1.50 USD each.


Would girls of age 12 or older be using the playground? Is
gender-integrated play an issue for the Muslim ethnic group at the school?

Girls older than 12 do use the playground. We have never seen any gender-integrated issues like you have mentioned in any of the playgrounds we have built in the area.


What are the most common tires sizes available? Is it possible to have varying tire sizes?

Truck tires: approximately 1000-1200mm
Car tires: 650-800mm
Motorbike tires: 500-600mm
Tires of exactly the same size are difficult to find so the design need to allow for some approximations in the sizing.

How do the thatch/ leaf panels work in construction?

They are about 1200mm sections. Examples are shown below.


How many nails/ screws are there per kilo and what sizes are available?

1 inch nails: hundreds per kilo
5 inch nails: 20-50 per kilo
Nails come in all sizes from 1inch to 5 inches, bolt are available in all sizes from 1/2 inch to +/- 12 inches.

How much does a bag of cement weigh?


Competition Details

  • Name: Play for all
  • Host: Go Play
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: November 24th, 2010
  • Submission Deadline: January 7, 2011
  • Entry Fee: $25
  • Award: $1000 USD
  • Status: Winners Annouced