Sometimes you have to leap before you look


My kids have a book where the main character, a bunny, is always scolded for 'hopping before he looks'. His dad says 'Look before you hop'. And he gets confused...hops before he looks...and winds up in some sort of trouble. But in real life...sometimes you just have to hop, or leap...and find out that you can soar.

Starting Studio Ludo was one of the scariest things I have ever done. In 2014, I had a secure job at a prestigious company in Philadelphia, developing research in landscape architecture, when my husband was given the offer to live in London for 6 months, bringing me and our toddler with him. It was a tough decision, a leap into the great unknown, but it seemed right to us. And it was.

While in London, I developed the London Study of Playgrounds, a study of 16 playgrounds across the city. I released the preliminary report a year ago, and will release the final report at the Child in the City conference in London this November, as well as give a tour of the sites, with researcher Tim Gill. The study found that the better designed, more innovative and natural play spaces in London were vastly more popular and more physically active than the post/platform and rubber surfaced playgrounds we see across the US.

This study laid the groundwork for all of my thinking about play. It revolutionized what I thought was possible and led me to start Studio Ludo. Our mission is to build better play through research, design and advocacy. We have found so many great partners who believe the same, and this past year has been a whirlwind.

On the design side, we have been working with our partners DIGSAU and Smith Memorial Playground on indoor playspaces for the Free Library of Philadelphia; developing the Play Parklet, a Kaboom Play Everywhere Challenge winner, with Roofmeadow and University City District; refining the competition design of Waterloo Playground towards a built project, with MTWB Foundation, Roofmeadow and ISA; and we recently had kickoffs for our Play Terrains project with the Free Library, Roofmeadow and Interpret Green; and the Playful Learning Design Manual, with Temple Infant and Child Lab and the William Penn Foundation.

On the research and advocacy side, we have attended and presented at conferences—the Playwork Campference in Los Angeles, the US Play Coalition conference in Clemson, and the International Play Association conference in Calgary. We hosted a 'State of Play' forum in partnership with Smith Memorial Playground, with guest speakers Tim Gill from London, researcher Kathy Hirsch-Pasek from Temple Infant and Child Lab and Kathryn Ott-Lovell, Philadelphia Commissioner of Parks. And we recently published our work on our smarterPLAY project in Next City. This research project is a partnership with JeffDESIGN to create better playgrounds for improved health outcomes, by studying behavior in outdoor settings with BLE sensors.

Upcoming projects include the Northwest Resiliency Park in Hoboken, NJ, and the release of our full report for the London Study of Playgrounds at the Child in the City conference, coming full circle to where it all began almost three years ago.