Construction day for Miles and I yesterday, as we headed to Berkeley’s Adventure Playground — a playground built almost entirely by the same kids who play there (the creation of the play structures is the play). Many kids don’t have access to hammers, saws, drills or paints at home, let alone tons of free timber and a safe place to experiment. We’re extremely fortunate to have one nearby, as there are fewer than a thousand of them in the world, and of those, only two are located in the U.S. (as you can imagine, given our litigious nature).
History of adventure playgrounds:
C. Th. Sørensen, a Danish landscape architect, noticed that children preferred to play everywhere but in the playgrounds that he built. In 1931, he imagined “A junk playground in which children could create and shape, dream and imagine a reality.” Why not give children in the city the same chances for play as those in the country? His initial ideas started the adventure playground movement.
Many parents worry about the safety of adventure playgrounds, but don’t realize their safety records are actually better than that of traditional playgrounds. Counterintuitive, but not when you consider that most regular playgrounds aren’t staffed, while adventure playgrounds are monitored by adults who scout for and fix unsafe structures. And kids can’t even get their tools until they’ve found and returned either 10 loose nails or 5 wood splinters or located 1 “Mr. Dangerous” — a nail that’s been pounded through to the other side of an exposed board. Thus, the children are incentivized toward safety right off the bat.
For kids not into building, the structures are as fun to play on as they are to create. The creativity level and learning opportunities at these playgrounds is extremely high. Oh, and there’s an excellent 100-foot zip line ending in a pile of sand.
Had an amazing time as always (though forgot I had set the camera to lowest resolution, so the shots aren’t great), but Miles hadn’t gotten his fill of Hammer Time. When we got home, he wanted to do more building. First he wanted to make a sun-shade. Halfway through, decided it should be a boat, then finally an ice cream stand. Nice opp to talk about the importance of planning. Ended the day with him making banana splits for all of us, beaming proudly.
Flickr set from the day.