Art With Jenny K.


STEM Activities for kids: Imaginary playgrounds


I designed this Imaginary Playground STEM activity to allow children an opportunity to use their creative play for discovery. This lesson is successful because kids can easily relate to playgrounds making this relevant to their lives. Kids also love to play, so this lesson easily engages children. To start this lesson, I asked the question, “If you could design your own playground, what would it look like?” The kids took it from there. This lesson is great any time of the year, but I always started the year off with it as a fun back-to-school activity.

You will find a complete teaching video for this lesson on YouTube HERE.

This project has extra credit! Check it out!

The creative adult is the child who survived.”  

I love this quote. It is the inspiration for this post on creative play and imaginary playgrounds. I hope it’ll help you integrate STEM activities into your classroom or at home with your own children!

Children are born creative, and all we need to do is “get out of the way” when it comes to their ideas and creativity. Our job is to keep our students from “growing up” when it comes to creative thinking and problem-solving. We don’t know what the world will look like when our students are adults, but we know that creative thinking and problem-solving will always be essential to surviving and thriving.

That’s why it’s important that we provide our students with creative moments where it doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong, it doesn’t matter what their test score says, and it doesn’t matter what others think. We should strive to provide our students with moments that inspire them and moments that allow them to feel safe to create without judgment or fear of being wrong. It’s tempting to tell them everything we think they need to know. However, if they don’t experience the joy of discovery, they will never truly get the “love of learning” feeling we want them to have. If you haven’t read my article with the Ken Robinson video on killing creativity, you can see it HERE.

Imaginary Playgrounds

To do this project, provide your students with a variety of paper strips. They can be anywhere from 1/4″ to 1″ wide and as long as you want them to be (this is a great time to use up scrap paper). Playgrounds are colorful, so I like to give kids all different colors to use. I also provide a “base” for the playground that is usually 6″ x 18″ (but you can use any size you want). Provide glue for your students, but no need to give them scissors. Let kids tear the paper if they want to change the size. The process is really good for their fine motor skills and muscles. I ask students to design an imaginary playground.

I don’t tell them much more than that – and they never question me – they jump right in!

To watch children with this project is fascinating–they go crazy dreaming up the coolest playground they can imagine. All children love to play. This project connects to something they know and care about. It also allows them to use their imaginations. If playground design companies included children in the design process, they’d come up with some pretty neat and original ideas, wouldn’t you say?!  This is engineering and design at its best!

As students are creating, you will see them solve design problems like folding the paper, scrunching it, curling it, etc., to get it to do what they want it to do. Then, after the lesson, I like to review the techniques they discovered. Together, we list how we used the paper by writing all the techniques on the board.

Students always have a story to tell about their playgrounds. They can tell you exactly what every piece of paper is and how they all work together. Often, they even include a bench for their mom or dad to sit on and watch them play.  

Listening to them talk about their final designs is my favorite part of this lesson. You can hear my daughter describing her playground in the video above. I encourage you to display these playgrounds and provide students with time to explain their playgrounds to other children and adults. We often showed ours in the library. They would also be great at any open house event.

Remember to hashtag #artwithjennyk on social media to share your projects with me. I love seeing all the wonderful things kids make.  You can find some of my FREE resources HERE to help you integrate art into your classroom.

Thanks for reading!

Jenny K.

Pin It!

Extra Credit!

STEM activities for kids

Do something for your STEM or STEAM studies that your students won’t soon forget – with my large, visually-engaging Famous Faces of STEM or STEAM poster. This fun, collaborative activity features 8 inspirational famous innovators:

  • Sally Ride
  • Albert Einstein
  • George Washington Carver
  • Thomas Edison
  • Steve Jobs
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Marie Curie.

My collaboration posters are easy for teachers and fun for kids and make a lasting impression—on students, parents, and your entire school community!

Purchase Extra Credit Add-on

Submit Your Extra Credit for a Chance to Be Featured!

Share & Save!

Out of the box ideas to your inbox!

Sign up today to receive Art with Jenny K’s eBook, The Benefits of Directed Drawing for Kids, and gain access to the AWJK Subscriber Library of freebies!

Continued Reading

Integrate art into your classroom!

Sign up for my newsletter and get out of the box ideas to your inbox!

Fill out and submit this form for a chance to be featured on!