26 July 2019, By Steffanie Hoek

Childhood obesity is becoming more and more prevalent. In 2016, almost 14 percent of children between the ages of 4 – 18 were too heavy. More physical activity is one of the solutions. The City of Amsterdam is using interactive playground installations, amongst others, to encourage children to play sports and be active in public spaces. Below an interview with Hafid Ouaali, Sports and Facilities Advisor. The ninth interactive playground installation was recently completed in Amsterdam.

A Quest Junior Memo was opened in Amsterdam. Why does an urban initiative such as this suit the city so well?

The city of Amsterdam aspires to positioning itself as an urban city in which physical activity is an integral part of spatial design. Due to urbanisation and increasing pressure on public spaces, we face the challenge of keeping the city liveable despite accelerated urbanisation, in combination with different ways of living, working and moving in the city. The Quest Junior Memo is ideally suited to a city like Amsterdam due to its dynamics. A spring rider will always be a spring rider, but the Memo programme can be adapted continually and as a whole, it fulfils the demands of this era.

What problem does it solve?

Amsterdam’s public spaces are where urban life takes place and flourishes. Efficient spatial planning is more important than ever with the ever growing number of residents and the construction of new homes within the city limits. In addition to contributing to resolving the housing shortage, the City is also committed to promoting sports and physical activity. Investing in sport means investing in public spaces. If we want to get as many people as possible playing sports, we’ll need additional square meterage to meet increasing demand. Initiatives such as the Quest Junior Memo offer a particularly good solution due to the relatively small size of the playground structures and the ease with the interactive element can be integrated with the public space.

In addition to the benefits in terms of spatial planning, interactive play is also an important aid for combatting obesity and inactivity in children. The current generation of children is growing up with tablets, smartphones and online gaming, as a result of which play has now taken on a completely different meaning. To encourage children to engage in phsyical activity nevertheless, static games are now being combined with physical activity. The additional element of competition always challenges users to broaden their horizons, particularly in children who dislike physical activity.

What was Amsterdam’s vision or policy in respect of initiating this project?

Our vision of Amsterdam as a Physically Active City seeks to equip the city in such a way that invites all residents to engage in recreation, sports, and play, whether consciously or unconciously. Exercising more is essential for good health and we are therefore trying to get young and old moving in the most diverse ways, for example, by creating more space for cyclists and pedestrians, placing play incentives in busy places, or installing challenging playgrounds.

What is your take on play in the city, in combination with the themes addressed by the Quest Junior Memo?

The sports and games space continues to evolve and is exceptionally sensitive to new trends and developments. It’s important to have the confidence to invest in new initiatives to meet the needs of the new generation of children. Interactive play is a relatively new phenomenon in our capital city. I am convinced that this new way of playing can rely on sufficient support and interest once it actually becomes tangible to new users. Furthermore, the combination of physical activity and education is a development we are following closely. For example, we are very busy designing school playgrounds in Amsterdam in a specific way to make them suitable for (environmental) education. As such, the Quest Junior Memo is a useful addition to the school’s educational curriculum.

Do you have other examples of interactive play in Amsterdam, or is the City planning to develop more projects?

We currently have nine interactive play structures in Amsterdam. Our updated playground plan states that we’ll focus more on trends and developments and thus on interactive play too. Traditional play installations will naturally continue to be a part of our stock of playground equipment.

– Written by Manon van Ketwich