Jay Beckwith

As a child play was my refuge and I was still building tree houses when I was in high school. Unsurprisingly when I went off to college I found myself happiest in the Art Department at S.F. State where I discovered a knack for make playful sculpture.

We also had a child by then, and knew I wanted to do a better job of parenting than my folks did, so headed down to Pacific Oaks to study child development. While there I realized that I could combine what I was learning about kids and my art.

Heading back to S.F. I started building playable sculptures, first with a partner and then with community volunteers. The Build Your Own Playground movement resulted in over 150 playspaces, a one-man show at the DeYoung Museum of Art, and a book.

I soon realized that I couldn’t continue to build play structures one at a time and so joined BigToys and expanded its kit of modular parts to launch their SchoolYard range of products.

Building on the success of SchoolYard I developed the concept of tubular steel and plastic play structure systems, first as PlayBoosters, and later, KidBuilders. I also worked with Kompan of Denmark to develop their 10Plus range as well as products for early childhood.

The greatest satisfaction in my career has been working with Gymboree Play and Music for whom I have created play systems in 1995 and completely revised in 2014. Currently I am consulting on updating the programing for the system.

I continue to follow the interests of kids, which today often involve technology, and have been investigating using smart devices to provide interactive location-based games.

I enjoy writing and have published several books, many articles and continue as a columnist and blogger. Being the curator for the NOW Playing PBS special provides me with a venue to follow and participate in the play movement at the highest level.

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