Did you know that there is an Adventure Play Renaissance happening worldwide right this very minute? Yes! How exciting is that? People everywhere are being inspired and empowered to create new versions of the classic Adventure Playground model: a place for children filled not just with fixed playground equipment, but instead filled with loose parts for construction, trees to climb, water to explore, animals to tend, gardens to grow, fires to cook over, and much much more—all with the support of trained professional “playworkers.” These places are true child habitats where the child’s ideas and inspirations create their worlds and set the parameters for play.
For a variety of reasons, many of today’s children have less free, unstructured time to play with their friends than in previous generations. But adults everywhere are recognizing the need to bring back open-ended play possibilities for their children — and for their children to have the chance to take risks and challenge themselves. Today’s Adventure Playground is one answer to society’s deep need for secure places for children’s free play.
I have been designing playspaces for 22 years and have always loved Adventure Playgrounds (and tour European models whenever I can!). Two years ago I helped start a new Adventure Playground at The Ithaca Children’s Garden in Ithaca, NY called The Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone. The place was an instant hit and is incredibly popular with local families, schools, after-school programs, and camps.
It is amazing to watch and makes me super excited to have this column to share stories, successes, and challenges of providing these types of play opportunities for children. It will be fun and I’ll show you examples of what we’re doing at the Anarchy Zone as well as what’s happening at our international inspirations!
But that’s not all....I’ll also talk about liability and safety issues, playworkers and the field of playwork, using loose parts for play, risk-benefit analyzing, and much more...including how schools, parks, and even childcare centers are incorporating these ideas into their children’s play opportunities.
It’s a new day in the playground world, folks. There’s a call for the wild and an answer echoing wildly back. The Adventure Play Renaissance — it’s happening. Yeah!