Category Archives: KaBOOM!

PlayGroundology’s on Cloud Nine

PlayGroundology has just wrapped its third year of blogging about the world of play and playgrounds. Following are nine posts that readers found popular. If you didn’t see them first time around, I hope you’ll take a moment to sample two, or three. If you like them, share with others – play never has a best before date. Happy playing and thanks for reading PlayGroundology!

Sculpted in France – Concrete Art Playgrounds

Photo credit: J. Bruchet. Source: Architectures de cartes postales. Designer: Pierre Székely. Cité des Jeux – L’Haÿ-les-Roses, France

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for France so I’m always on the lookout for interesting play stories from that part of the world. Our family lived there in the early 70s. I was 12 when we arrived and 15 when we left. It was my gawky early adolescent phase which I like to think I’ve outgrown. (more…)

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Just Play

J

Just Play

play play
whether it’s alone or with friends
within four walls or under a great canvas of sky
just play

there are not enough hours
in a heartful life
to miss kaleidoscoping fun (more…)

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The Playground Paradise Principle

Paradise might be a bit of a stretch but Malmö, Sweden is quite simply playgroundalicious. It’s the kind of place that would inspire Mary Poppins to gather her young charges around her and umbrella them off to adventure – up through the atmosphere/ up where the air is clear/ let’s all/ go to Malmö. (more…)

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London’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground Makes The New York Times Magazine

Source: Haringey Play Association. Click image to enlarge

There are four stunning, brilliant images in the March 1 edition of the The New York Times Magazine offering glimpses of children at the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground in London, England. (more…)

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A Journey of Epic Proportions

How do you spice up your morning commute to work and at the same time make it more meaningful? Look no further than my friend Chris Gregory for an answer. Chris is a champion for play at the Isle of Man’s leading children’s charity The Children’s Centre. To raise awareness for outdoor play and safe and playful routes for children, he is taking a different means of self propelled transport every workday for the month of March. His epic journey started out with a 3 kilometer spacehopper commute. Do I hear sore thighs? (more…) Note, Chris is in training for his second run at March 2 Work.

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Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa

Source: Mmofra Foundation. Click image to enlarge

Two acres of green space in the Dzorwulu neighbourhood of Accra, Ghana are being primed for transformation. It’s all about the kids, or Mmofra as they are called in Ghana’s Akan language.

This story, about a small plot of land, spans decades, continents and generations. It’s the story of a woman’s vision, of her love for children. The seeds were sown 50 years ago when the late Efua Sutherland wrote her groundbreaking book on Ghana’s play culture, Playtime in Africa. The narrative and accompanying photographs by Willis E. Bell were the first real documentation of children’s play in the newly independent African nation. (more…)

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Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning

Earlier this spring, Sir Ken (Robinson) shared his views on education with an appreciative audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia – home of PlayGroundology. I was one of the 1,000 in attendance who enjoyed an accomplished and entertaining critic of conventional wisdom about education and creativity. No props, no notes, plenty of humourous asides and always an à propos anecdote. (more…)

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Have You Heard What They’re Saying About RISK? Listen Then Share

Generally speaking, parents want their kids to experience the fullness of the world – the quiet beauty, the dizzying adventure, the discovery of self and others. As much as possible we want to keep hurt and injury at bay but they too are part of the mix with cuts, scrapes and breaks both corporeal and psychological. So how do we go about assessing risk? How do we ensure that our kids aren’t enclosed in a cocoon of safety?

I saw this video a couple of nights ago and thought I would play a small role in helping to spread the word. Right now it’s at 373 views. After you’ve watched it, please share with your friends and your broader network.

Thanks to the Alliance for Childhood and KaBOOM! for producing this piece.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging

There’s something cosmic about swinging, a certain je ne sais quoi. When I saw Teena Marie Fancey’s Baby Boy at The Craig Gallery on Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s waterfront a couple of years ago, I knew I had found a great opening image for a paean to swings. Thanks Teena. (more…)

Have You Heard What They’re Saying About RISK? Listen Then Share

Generally speaking, parents want their kids to experience the fullness of the world – the quiet beauty, the dizzying adventure, the discovery of self and others. As much as possible we want to keep hurt and injury at bay but they too are part of the mix with cuts, scrapes and breaks both corporeal and psychological. So how do we go about assessing risk? How do we ensure that our kids aren’t enclosed in a cocoon of safety?

I saw this video a couple of nights ago and thought I would play a small role in helping to spread the word. Right now it’s at 373 views. After you’ve watched it, please share with your friends and your broader network.

Thanks to the Alliance for Childhood and KaBOOM! for producing this piece.

From The Playground To The Podium

From the playground to the podium, this is how the Canadian Olympic Committee characterizes the physical fitness and sports continuum. To produce international calibre athletes we have to start young. Physical activity, exercise and games are critical from an early age.

So I wonder where today’s top athletes played as kids and where the stars of the future are playing now?

World Cup Rugby action from Auckland, New Zealand is one of this weekend’s big ticket items in international sports. On Sunday, the All Blacks take on France in the final on their home turf. Minutes before the game gets underway at Eden Park stadium, there will be some serious play as the All Blacks throw down their traditional challenge in the form of the haka.

Here’s a look at some New Zealand playgrounds (thanks again to flickr photographers) where future members of the All Blacks squad could be in early training now – developing their dexterity, building their strength and testing their physical limits.

Auckland’s best playgrounds are the subject of this New Zealand Herald story from 2010. There are some great images associated with this story too – just look for the photo link below and to the right of the story headline. So if you’re in Auckland over the weekend and looking for a positive and fun vibe before the final kicks off, check some of these playgrounds. The city also has a comprehensive online list of playgrounds that includes maps and equipment inventories but no photos.

Miramar Central School, Wellington, New Zealand. Photo credit – Mike Riversdale – Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Of course the playground to podium continuum flows in the opposite direction too. In North America, particularly in the US, there is a strong commitment to community and to play from a number of professional sports franchises. Some have teamed up with playground advocates like KaBOOM!

Back to rugby. I’d love to be there on Sunday hooting and hollering with the best of them, rooting for the All Blacks. It’s not that I don’t like the French. I lived in France for a couple of years as a kid during Pierre Villeneuve’s reign as captain of the French squad. No, it’s just that I like the All Blacks more. It is their esprit de corps and their ferociousness that appeal to me.

If you have any stories about sports and playgrounds (professional or amateur) we’d love to hear them @playgroundology or playgroundology@gmail.com.

A Headline To Make Any City Proud

Casey is city of playgrounds proclaims a headline in a recent edition of the Cranbourne Leader, a daily published in Australia’s Victoria State. It’s a small yet wonderful story. It’s not often that local governments are commended for their commitment to playspaces, or choose to market their playground assets.

The story was picked up from a City of Casey news release that speaks to the local government’s development of a playground strategy in 2010. As it turns out, playground strategies are popular in Australia’s town and cities judging by the number that are posted online.

In many countries, local governments are the stewards of public space play. They make the zoning, planning, design, procurement and budgetary decisions. In the best case scenarios, the management of public play spaces presents opportunities for civic engagement through advisory committees, neighbourhood mobilization and other avenues.

To date, I’ve only come across one program, Playful City USA developed by KaBOOM!, whose primary intent is to recognize best practices of local governments and their residents in making play a priority in their community. It is a model that could be adapted to other jurisdictions to encourage and assist communities to build on the good work for play that they have underway.

Bravo to the City of Casey and to local media for reporting on the city’s commitment to play.

Cheap Thrills – Playgrounding on Vacation

Has there been ample traipsing around museums, trudging through shopping centres, interminable amusement park screeling and screeching, enough blue-lipped, sand-encrusted, beachy shivering for your young ones this vacation?

Aground – La Grave, Magdalen Islands, Canada

For the seven or eight and under crowd, maybe it’s time for a playground holiday visit. They’re fun fueled, inexpensive, physically active outings. Often there’s unfamiliar equipment for the kids to scramble about on, something they’ve never seen before. And what better place to meet local kids for fleeting friendships.

Red and Yellow – Fatima, Magdalen Islands, Canada

This August we’ve had a week in the islands, The Magdalen Islands in Canada’s Gulf of the St. Lawrence. We’ve hit a few playgrounds between beach and backyard games. The kids want a return engagement with every one of them. Here’s a quick slide show of les terrains de jeux des Iles.

Morning Skies – L’Étang du nord, Magdalen Islands, Canada

Tips for holiday playground hunting:

- check the local town or city’s website, if you’re lucky playgrounds will be listed. One of the best I’ve come across is New York City;

- check the local school board for a listing of schools. Inquire to determine if school playgrounds are accessible after hours and during summer holidays. Unfortunately that’s not the case in all jurisdictions;

- check the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder, great for US and parts of Canada;

- if you’re very lucky there will be a local playground blogger where you’re going. Here’s a little shameless promotion of my Halifax, Nova Scotia – PlayGround Chronicles. Other playground bloggers are noted in the left hand column;

- ask, or do the wander walkabout.

Country hills – Ile d’Entrée, Magdalen Islands, Canada

Happy vacation…

Let’s Play, Play, Play in St. Andrews By-The-Sea

It’s always a treat to unexpectedly come across a playground jewel. I love those sweet spot moments when I first see a new playscape that will become the subject of a PlayGroundology post.
Click photos to enlarge

On the rare occasions that I travel for work, the discoveries usually take place before the business day begins. I then have to wait patiently until the following morning, or the end of the work day to return to the site and shoot some photos. This was the case recently in St. Andrews By-The-Sea in southwestern New Brunswick on the Canadian shore of Passamaquoddy Bay.

At the St. Andrews Creative Playground, ten towers march skyward creating vertical sightlines for the many walkways, ramps and bridges that connect and lead to a variety of play areas. In addition to standard climbing, swinging and sliding stations, there are opportunities to test balancing prowess, play a tune on percussive pipes, let your fingers do the walking on an etched maze, or play tic-tac-toe with wooden blocks.

There are wonderful decorative touches throughout the playground including a red-spiked green dragon that wraps around one of the structures, fired tiles and concrete squares with symbols, names and collages embedded in a wall and a do-it-yourself pegboard art station.

In keeping with attention to details, a standard plastic tube swirl slide has two plexiglass windows installed on either side at the launch point. Small ones can look out and wave before they push off and whoosh momentarily through the darkness to the circle of light below. This is a customized design element that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

In 1993, Leathers & Associates from Ithaca, New York led the community in the design and building of this playground. Bob Leathers got his start in the playground world in the early 1970s when he was asked to organize people to build a playground at his children’s school. Since then, he’s been to every US state and seven countries with his brand of kid consultation and community build. Toronto’s High Park playground is another of his Canadian creations.

With an estimated lifespan of 25 years, there is still time for lots of laughter and play at the St. Andrews Creative Playground. If you’re in the neighbourhood of a playground designed by Leathers & Associates, take a moment and let your kids explore, run and play. They’ll love you for it.
Click on photo above for flickr slideshow.

NoteTomorrow, KaBOOM! will celebrate its 2,000th build in Washington, D.C. with a little help from First Lady Michelle Obama. Bravo for bringing communities, kids and playgrounds together and a big hats off to the KaBOOM! team for their social enterpreneur prowess.

Calling all Dads, Attention les Papas – KaBOOM’s Pledge for Play

My friends at KaBOOM! are encouraging us all to take a pledge for play. What a magnificent idea. The pledge means a commitment of time on our part, time well spent with our children exploring their abilities, their potential, their laughter, their fun.

Here it is in all its simplicity:

I believe that my child needs to play outdoors, every day. Regular play outdoors makes children happier, healthier, smarter, more socially adept, more independent, and more creative. By pledging today, I add my voice to the growing movement of fathers who are committed to restoring play to childhood.

I’m in Toronto on business and took Kerala’s call to action to heart. Serendipitously, I have a daughter here who I was able to do some playgrounding with. Never mind that she’s in her late 20s, we had a fine time at Christie Pitts swinging and spinning.

So smile, stand up and be counted. Take the pledge for play right here.

When I get back to Halifax, I’ll be taking my wee ones out to run, climb, take big gulps of air and laugh because to play is to be.

Hallowe’en Treat – Spooky Playgrounds

I hope you’ll enjoy today’s guest post – a special Hallowe’en treat from PlayGroundology’s good friends at KaBOOM!

A windy day. Hard white sunlight. A lone swing creaking back and forth… Why are abandoned playgrounds so downright spooky?

Perhaps it’s because a playground is much more than a collection of structures. A playground depends on playing children and a caring community to thrive. Empty playgrounds that have fallen into disrepair seem haunted by the ghosts of the children who once scrambled, screamed, and scurried around there.

We have scoured the web for photos of the world’s spookiest playgrounds. The soundtrack from a scary movie of your choice will enhance the viewing experience:

TOP: An abandoned elementary school playground in the toxic town of Picher, Okla. Photo by Jeremy (cc). LEFT: Ash Fork, Ariz. Photo by moominsean (cc). RIGHT, BELOW: The Catarina Community Park, in Catarina, Tex., is a sad testament to a fading community. Photos by Matthew High (cc).

These photos depict the playground of a school in the ghost town of Pripyat near Chernobyl, Ukraine, where the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred in 1986 at a nuclear power plant. Photos by Timm Seuss (cc).

A playground at the deserted North Shore Yacht Club on the Salton Sea in California. Photo by thomas_sora (cc).


An abandoned playground in Belcarra, Vancouver, a village on a narrow peninsula that is accessible by a single winding paved road or by water. Photo by Kimli (cc).


An old carousel deteriorates in Port Moody, British Columbia. Photo by Hayley Bouchard (cc).


Photo by Jason Rogers (cc).


The Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N.H. once hosted almost 5,000 people. It closed in 1989. Photo by Patti Gravel (cc).


LEFT: The abandoned children’s play park and ferris wheel in Chernobyl, Ukraine, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident. Children have not played here since 1986. Photo by Doug Murray (cc). TOP RIGHT: A deserted school in Macon, Georgia. Photo by Mark Strozier (cc). BOTTOM RIGHT: Mission San Vicente in Baja California, Mexico. Photo by David Cohen (cc).


LEFT: Near Cardiff, Wales. Photo by I Am Sargant (cc). RIGHT: The playground at a school for Native Americans in the ghost town of Valentine, Ariz. Photo by Dawn Nakaya (cc).


Detroit, Mich. Photos by Michael Greenlee (cc).


A playground in a deserted settlement in Galicia, Spain. Photo by Peter Pick (cc).

Kerala Taylor is Manager of Online Content and Outreach for KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America’s children. Our mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Visit the KaBOOM! blog

Playgrounds in the Media II

Imagination Playground’s Flagship Opens in Manhattan

It’s been a breathless sweep of media coverage this past week for Imagination Playgrounds, the Rockwell Group and New York City. A crowd of kids and dignitaries, including architect David Rockwell and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, descended on Burling Slip in Manhattan to put the first permanent Imagination Playground through its paces. There was big, blue fun and delicious visuals of dreamful play. This new world is sketched using a moveable feast of oversize building blocks, the outline of a sailing vessel and sand and water play. The scenes are ever changing.

According to this National Public Radio report, Imagination Playgrounds, in addition to representing a revolution in play and design, can also play a role in economic development. The kids also get their say in this piece spelling out what fun is all about.

Click here for the Imagination Playground’s own media roll up – everyone from The New Yorker to Time. Check the rockwellgroup – click Portfolio and then Educate for another series of articles. Other write ups worth a peek include Rockwell Makes a Ruckus at Imagination Playground in The Architect’s Newspaper Blog, Rockwell’s Imagination Playground Is a Cutting-Edge Learning Experiment in Co.Design, Burling Slip’s Imagination Playground Opens its Mind to Downtown in Curbed NY, and David Rockwell, Bloomberg Open Imagination Playground in The Huffington Post.

For background on the Imagination Playground concept visit their faq (frequently asked questions). A couple of other points worth noting – the Rockwell Group’s work is pro bono and a national partnership has been established with KaBOOM! to help implement and develop Imagination Playgrounds across the US. Finally as New York City is an enthusiastic supporter and the Mayor is apparently big on playgrounds, it’s only fair to link to the Mayor’s Office news release for those who may wish to give it a read.

More on Imagination Playgrounds available here






Ka-BOOM! Keeps on Buildin’ and Boomin’ in the Gulf Area

Ka-BOOM! has been working with local communities building badly needed playgrounds in the Gulf area for the past five years. The non-profit issued a news release last week to mark the 5th anniversary of playground reconstruction in the region. To date there doesn’t appear to have been much pick up. It’s a great story of rebuilding that remembers the kids and their need to play. Read the release here.

Playground Threatened by Developers in Laindon, England

Residents are collecting signatures to present to Basildon Council with the hope of saving a playground and sportsfield from redevelopment into a housing estate. Not everyone is happy with the prospect of the land that currently is home to the playground being sold to help pay for a state of the art sports facility at another location.

The petition campaign is being led by 73-year-old Terry Adam and is being reported in The Essex County Echo. Councilors indicate it’s still too early to provide a definitive answer on the playground’s fate. We’ll check in with the Echo and other local media to see how Terry and the save the playground campaign are making out.

Although it doesn’t always work, concerted action can turn the tide in the favour of community members who do not share the same vision as city hall. Witness the Friends of La Laguna who last week placed number one in the cultural landscapes category for the L.A. Conservancy’s Top 60 of the 60s People’s Choice Awards. Had it not been for civic engagement, La Laguna playground would have been bulldozed long ago. Read the PlayGroundology post here.




Photo credits

All photos courtesy of Imagination Playgrounds.

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.

Playground Odysseys at Home and Abroad

It’s the last day of classes for public schools in Québec. The sun is cracking hot, an open invitation to summer fun. We have all our essential supplies – water and snacks for refueling, sun block and hats to protect us from the pounding rays.

Nellie and Noah are oblivious to the high humidity. It’s so thick and sticky it feels like you should be able to peel it off but there is no such relief. They know there is a playground adventure in the offing and that grand-papa is part of the team. They’re primed, prepped and persistent. “Are we ready yet?” Noah asks as he hops down from the breakfast table.

None too soon for the kids, we’re out the door, buckled into the car and heading off to our first destination, Parc Chalifoux. The original concept for the day was for play time at all 20 plus playgrounds in Sorel-Tracy, Québec – a marathon of fun. It’s an idea I had dreamed up the previous summer and kept alive with Noah and Nellie over the winter months.

Even though it’s all physically possible, it turns out the concept is not ready for prime time. The challenge is proper routing along with a little advanced scouting and precision timing that takes into account, snacks, naps, bathroom breaks and so on. After taking into consideration drive time between the playgrounds, I calculate that we’d have about 10 minutes per stop to let loose on the equipment.

It’s on the eve of the event that I come to terms with my lack of preparation. My loving wife who helps to bring me to my senses wonders if I have totally lost touch with reality. I’m inclined to think that it’s less fiasco and more like a temporary folly zone. While the Marathon of Playgrounds is theoretically doable, it’s not advisable with our key participants just on the cusp of three and five-years-old. Fond memories of an exciting day of playgrounding are not the likely outcome.

We radically alter the day to a 2 1/2 hour morning window with four or five playgrounds that we have not previously visited. In fact, we get to three – Parc Chalifoux, Parc Réal-Lemieux and the Parc-école au Petit Bois. Each visit is a leisurely affair exploring new spaces and equipment.

Two of the playgrounds are adjacent to soccer fields. Noah grabs his soccer ball from the car trunk and spirited games à la World Cup break out. Nellie holds her own against big brother while Raymond and I poke a foot in here and there.

Chalifoux’ miniature giraffe is as at home in the beating sun of the playground corral as she would be on the African veldt. We’ve never seen a giraffe springrider before. Nellie hopes on and has a good go at riding her under the brilliant blue sky with wispy feathers of cloud.

The kids are having a great time and I’m pretty much over my disappointment. The Playground Marathon really only had advanced billing hoopla in my own folly-stricken mind. Over the course of our stay in Sorel we’ve probably visited ten different playgrounds including today’s three. We have favourites like Parc Bibeau and Parc des Trembles. We have other old friends here too like Parc Larivière and Parc Regard-sur-le-Fleuve.

There’s been an influx of new equipment this summer. Some of the old metal stuff has been kept to share the space with the new plastic. It’s heartening to see that older equipment hasn’t been removed in toto. The caterpillar at Parc Bibeau got a new coat of paint and looks great on her perch on top of the hill. The rocking horse swings at Parc Larivière and the spider monkey bars at Parc Soleil were not as lucky. I guess they’ve been transported to that great playground junkyard in the sky.

No brand new stuff at either Chalifoux, Réal Lemieux or Petit Bois but lots of opportunities to discover equipment that they’ve never played on before while doing the swinging, climbing and sliding thing.

Our final stop of the morning is at Petit Bois. It’s a modest little playground positioned right next to the main doors of a primary school. We’re the only ones there as the kids are in class or playing out back as part of their final phys ed class of the year.

It doesn’t take long for us to run through all the equipment here – the mini-arched bridge, the slide, the stepping platforms. The kids are starting to wear down a bit from the heat too.

We hear sounds of play coming from the back of the school and can see some of the kids on a hill that overlooks the recreation space. We head over that way to see what’s happening. Raymond knows the teacher leading the game and we all get introduced.

Noah and Nellie are invited to join the game. Each of them is paired with an older kid to give them a hand. Their smiles break out as they stand up at the plate to kick the ball and round the bases in this hybrid baseball soccer game. It’s a very successful conclusion to our outing – a sporty activity playing with the big kids.

We hit three playgrounds instead of the anticipated (dreamed of) twenty-some that I had dancing around my head like quixotic windmills. We all had a great time and the kids’ endurance has been stretched just enough. Our day is a triumph of quality over quantity. At this age they’re just not ready for the kind of novelty challenge I have in mind.

Never say never however. I’m convinced that a few years from now as the kids are winding up their pre-teen days we could polish this off quite handily. Stay tuned for a post in 2018. That kind of advance should allow me ample time to iron out any planning wrinkles too…

A National Challenge of Marathon Proportions

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C. the playful minds at KaBOOM! have been busy. These folks love to raise awareness about the value of play and the important role of playgrounds within communities. They’ve raised their advocacy to an art form that’s all about doing and getting people engaged.

Their latest national challenge was inspired by one of their Facebook fans. In a nutshell, it’s nine parents and their kids, 50 playgrounds in 50 days – the Park-a-Day KaBOOM! Summer Challenge. The participants come from across the US – Maine, Florida, California, New Jersey and points in between. You can meet the contestants and read all about it here.

PlayGroundology hopes to catch up with some of the contestants as they hit the 40-day mark to get their perspectives on this playground odyssey.

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.