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15.04.2021 - Ausgabe: 2/2021

Benefiting children and families

By Dirk Schelhorn (LS2 Landschaftsarchitekten und Beratender Ingenieur Schelhorn Lukowski Schnabel PartG mbB)

© Rathschlag GmbH

Mainkrokodile – two privately run facilities  

A modern villa, formerly a consulate, and a charmless office building situated right next to the railway line. Both buildings, in the south of Frankfurt on the Main, are surrounded by sealed surfaces and car parking spaces. Not exactly the most favourable conditions for creating a stimulating and creative environment for kids. However, the nationwide childcare shortage and the need for the best possible educational support call for new approaches.

The private “Mainkrokodile” kindergarten provider has made it its mission to offer high-quality, health- and exercise-oriented places for children in the south of Frankfurt. From the very beginning, each project is geared to the needs of children under the age of six. Organization, architecture, open space planning and educational concept are perfectly harmonized.

This is possible – even in places that are actually unthinkable, as described above: living and working with children should have be residential in character and conjure up a homely atmosphere. The kindergarten as a home. Then it can also be unusual places – sometimes that is exactly what makes it so appealing. 

After all, who lives in an old villa, a real house with corners, nooks and crannies, a staircase, a cellar and a kitchen? And in a garden surrounding the house that encourages play? Or in an office building with complementary everyday life? With young and old people! And in a garden as a miniature park.

Hence, a virtue can be made of necessity. In addition to addressing the architecture and surroundings, the design of the outdoor facilities posed a particular challenge, especially since both facilities integrate children with disabilities as a matter of course.

The basic idea of both gardens reflects children’s need to be able to explore and conquer the world for themselves. From crawling and walking age to three- and six-year-olds. There are no boundaries separating the age groups, but rather designed areas that challenge the children with different levels of difficulty. 

The main criterion is the developmental stage of the individual child. The range of activities on offer is the challenge. The children never get bored during the five years of kindergarten. The younger ones learn from the older ones what is feasible, so children become role models for other children. This is how multi-age kindergarten can be a success – the outdoor facilities must provide the right framework for this to be possible.


Kennedyallee: the “house that offers play opportunities all around”  

The “house that offers play opportunities all around” at the old villa could be achieved by converting car parking into bicycle parking. The emergency access road was incorporated as a play area.

An open concept was developed for the 1-6 year age range. 

The entrance area welcomes everyone as a place to linger with an in-ground trampoline and bicycle racks to be used as horizontal bars and climbing poles. From here, the children can go into the house – or into the garden. 

The “little” world for the younger children consists of a modelled small landscape with various retreats and experiment corners. A central hiding box on springs offers quiet and privacy, but also provides physical experiences due to the spring mechanism. The children’s own movement is transferred to the box. It is exemplary in that even small children can develop in part without supervision. Accordingly, the range of play opportunities is very wide and demanding.


Lawn as a multifunctional play area 

The central lawn as a multifunctional play area connects the area designated for children under three years of age with the tree house-style climbing arena. 

Children set out to take on challenges, opening up new horizons in the process: real worlds and broadening their own horizons. The climbing arena, which is of key importance, follows this principle. 

Many different paths wind around a large lime tree. Climbing over rough and smooth. Up and down, back and forth. Almost after each step, the children can decide how to proceed. 

Higher or back down again? Harder or easier? Around the corner or straight ahead? 

Static or wobbly? The principle of making one’s own decision really applies here, which makes the difference between failure and success. 

The accumulation of quarry stones, the small hill, is also a multifunctional arena for meeting, small groups or guided play. Or a jump station. Jumping - up and above all down - is one of the key and essential forms of movement for children under the age of eleven. 

Jumping requires coordination, full-body balance and courage. It promotes the suppleness of muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. The first five years of a child’s life are fundamentally important for building strong bones and muscles. However, the number of fat cells is also set during the early years of life.

Several trades were involved in the construction of the climbing arena. The specialist company Rathschlag from Löhnberg was particularly involved. Together, the companies were able to push the limits and explore ways of providing the children with as many incentives as possible right from the planning stage. 

The water play area connects the older and younger children. The centrifugal pump can be accessed and easily operated by all children.  

The tour through the garden of the children’s villa now takes you to the experimental area. A floor area left open with plenty of loose material. 

Here the children build and dig, crawl and run – together! 

The children can not only play around the house every day. Over the course of the kindergarten years, the challenges around the house keep changing and growing. 


Hedderichstraße: new standards for children under the age of three

The “Mainkrokodile” kindergarten provider is also setting new standards for the “little ones”.

The garden at the office building, formerly a car parking lot, was to accommodate a whole world for children under three years of age on a small plot of 200-250 square metres.

For this age group, physical activity more than ever is a key factor influencing personality development. It is all about playing and exercising – playing and exercising in a scaled landscape.

A garden is at the heart of the planning process! Different zones overlap. Small “up and down landscapes”, a variety of materials, playable and natural fences. Children experience the world through their senses, perception and motor skills. Children let their senses guide them.

A “Weltenschaukel” swing serves as a snuggle nest for the very little ones or as a rocking cocoon for the older ones. This small garden can only be explored by “playing through it”. And that very close to the ground.

A garden is provided, embracing the spirit of a healthy childhood.

Both facilities were developed together with the team. Educational and developmental psychological approaches, which are a quality feature of all Mainkrokodile facilities, also form the basis for a genuine, child-oriented open space design. 


Further information:



Kennedyallee             approx. 200,000 

Hedderichstraße        approx.   90,000


Planning period          6 months

Construction period   6 months and 3 months, respectively  

Implementation          2019/2020


Client/ funding provider

Mainkrokodile gGmbH / www.mainkrokodile.de 


Outdoor facilities 

Planning consulting development 

Schelhorn Landschaftsarchitektur

As of 1st January 2021  

LS2 Landschaftsarchitekten und Beratender Ingenieur Schelhorn Lukowski Schnabel PartG mbB



Play structures 

Rathschlag GmbH



Gardening and landscaping  

Roßkopf Garten + Landschaftsbau GmbH + Co. KG   



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