Save Emdrup Adventure Playground | Love Outdoor Play

For those of us who are passionate about independent, outdoor play for kids with an accent on adventure, we owe a huge thank you for the brilliance of the Emdrup experience which continues to shine brightly in pockets here and there around the globe. If you are a lover of adventure playgrounds, add your voice to those who are campaigning to save this treasure.

“Changes by the local authority will see children segregated by age to make the playground a more traditional day care centre. Older children will be moved out. Staff and supporters are afraid this will lead to increasing restrictions in free play and risk, losing the ‘children’s democracy’ and autonomy that has characterised the site for over 70 years.”

You can support the Emdrup campaign by writing to Dorthe Rasmussen Kjær at dk@rysensteen.dk

Thanks to Tim Gill and Play England for sharing this information

Rethinking Childhood

I was lucky enough to visit Emdrup – the world’s first adventure playground –  on a study visit to Copenhagen in 2003, and I still remember its relaxed, low-tech, quietly self-assured ambience. It would be tantamount to a crime against children’s culture to stand by and see its spirit die as a result of bureaucratic whim.

Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer

Please do what you can to save it. Details are in the reblogged post. You may want to highlight why it matters for children and young people of widely differing ages to be given the chance to play together. US psychologist Peter Gray has good things to say on this [pdf link].

For more on the adventure playground model and the debt it owes to Emdrup, see this 2014 Guardian article.

Hats off to Play England for sharing news of this campaign.

Please note the title of the blog post that…

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A Billion Loose Parts Give or Take

Every January there’s an outdoor event in Halifax, Nova Scotia to welcome new immigrants to the wondrous world of winter. For those who come from winter-free zones, it is tingly, heady stuff.

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This year our merry band of Adventure Play YHZers join the celebrations. It is our second public event. We have a sweet selection of loose parts on hand including PVC pipes, tires, milk crates, cardboard boxes and a multilingual sign welcoming people and inviting them to play.

These quality play pieces were sure fire winners back in the fall with green grass underfoot. This time though, we are outflanked by chill temps and a fresh fall of snow. According to Reddit, there are about a billion snowflakes in a cubic foot and eight billion or more in a snowman.

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It’s hard to compete with these naturally occurring loose parts – each flake its own unique shape – unless it’s with something that transforms the snow such as shaping it into bricks.

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Close by our loose parts central, which isn’t suffering from overcrowding problems, there is one of the many off the shelf playgrounds that are found throughout the city. This is one of the larger ones close to the downtown core on the Halifax Common a large expanse of land that dates back to the city’s founding in the mid-18th century.

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Our kids grease the slide with snow to speed their descent into a cold embrace. Snow makes all the equipment just a bit more slippery – stairs, ropes, rungs and slides. The kids practice being sure-footed and enjoy the thrill from a hint of risk.

Also within a shout is the city’s biggest skatepark. There are no skaters dropping off the edge of the bowl into the collecting snow but kids are finding other ways to make this an all weather venue..

It’s not everyday that you have a chance to get the adrenalin pumping in an unanticipated adventure. Future winter visits to the Halifax Common with our gang will now include a de rigueur pit stop at the skatepark.

BOOM

I’m on the precipice sitting on a kids’ plastic sled legs akimbo. I steel myself to drop over the concrete lip. It’s a minute or two before I push off in a wonderful flash of inelegance.  The kids are braver as they zip down and clamber out sliding their way to saturation, snowsuits sopped through and through. For them, the wet discomfort is a small price to pay when discovering a new snow delight spiced with a dash of fright…

We have to leave early to get one of the girls to a birthday party. As we prepare to go, families of new Canadians are starting to cross the street as they leave the The Oval, the city’s outdoor skating venue of choice.

On this particular afternoon, snow rules. One of nature’s loose parts par excellence takes the day. Welcome to winter….

Loose parts sign

What makes a favourite?


Editor’s note – It is always a pleasure to welcome guest writers to PlayGroundology. Mark Schwarz suggested the idea for this post when we got together for a lunch in Halifax at the tail end of last year. It’s a serendipitous time for me to post this as I’m just returning from a trip to visit my first granddaughter Evelyn. It was a wintry Toronto time for me, not as balmy as it is in Mark’s home away from home.


Mark Schwarz (aka Grandpa) is the co-owner of Earthscape, an award-winning Canadian custom playground design-build firm. He spends a few months each year in Australia with some of his grandchildren who provide valuable insight as playground testers for his sometimes zany ideas. He began his career as an engineer but the kid in him got the better of him and now his business is play. He has visited playgrounds around the world, always with an eye to evaluating play value and site design.

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Grandpa: “What are your favourite playgrounds in the world girls?”
Akira: “Muddy’s. That’s all.”
Elora: “Yeah, just Muddy’s”

Cairns, a small city in tropical Northern Queensland, Australia, is home to the world’s most successful playground. I know, I know everyone has their favourite playground, so why does Muddy’s get the top vote from almost everyone who has visited?

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The latest visit by my granddaughters and I demonstrates some of the great design ideas embodied in the playground which gets consistently high visitor traffic, in a city of 140,000. In the 4 years we’ve been coming to Cairns, we’ve visited Muddy’s 10 to 12 times. Most of our visits have lasted 1.5 to 2 hours. The most recent visit was on a Sunday afternoon, 32 Deg C, partial sun and cloud. 150 to 200 people were spread throughout the playground area, even when a rainstorm blew through for a half hour.

This is the most used playground we’ve been to, including 20 or so playgrounds we visited in Sydney, AU, and the much more costly Blaxland Riverside Park, built for the Sydney Olympics, Muddy’s ranks as Tripadvisor’s #2 Activity in Cairns, which is the highest rank for a playground I’m aware of.

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Great things about the playground:

– Landscape Architecture. Canopy of fig trees covers most of the site. Gardens break up views and create rooms of distinct play zones.
– Themed seating integrated throughout site. Parents can sit throughout site. The 150+ people on site Sunday all had places to sit, in the shade, close to their children. Many playgrounds we’ve visited have no seating, and those that do are rarely shaded.
– Custom themed. The playground is a mix of standard manufactured play equipment, and themed playable sculpture, art, and site amenities like seating and BBQ shelters.
– Integration. The site doesn’t read like most playgrounds – plopped from space onto a site. Circulation, plantings, play equipment, streams, BBQ area, cafe, musical instruments are integrated into cohesive design.

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– Multi-generational appeal. The BBQ areas and cafe are used by all ages, and the water features appeal to both parents and children.
– Water. This is tropical Australia, so we’re always overheated and sweaty, especially while running around a playground. Water is integrated throughout the site, in streams, fountains, a splashpad, and water walls. The splashpad is used mostly by children, the other features are used by all ages. Most of the adults don’t have bathing suits, so they cool down by walking in streams, getting partially immersed in fountains, and hanging out in the mist from the splashpad.

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What elements make up your favourite playground? Leave us a comment….


 

Four Seasons of PlayGroundology FB

As we embark on a new year, here’s a quick look back on 2015 with a month-by-month retrospective of popular posts from PlayGroundology FB. Thanks to readers and fans for engaging with us across PlayGroundology‘s platforms by sharing, suggesting and commenting on content. We’re looking forward to another great year in 2016….

Clicking through on the individual images will take you to the original posts.

Winter 2015

January 12, 2015 Click through here for theater view.


 

February 18, 2015


March 27, 2015


Spring 2015

April 24, 2015


May 27, 2015


June 10,2015


Summer 2015

July 6, 2015


August 31, 2015


September 28, 2015


Fall 2015

October 2, 2015


November 13, 2015


December 20, 2015

 


 

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Go Slow with the Comments – Send a Playful Postcard

There is a measured swell of unhurry being savoured in pockets around the world. If your meanderings take you somewhere north of langour and south of efficiency you may tarry on this road less traveled. It’s the antithesis of rapid, the slow show as in the slow food, slow cooking movement and potentially a host of other common pursuits.

Just yesterday, I heard Professor Naomi S. Baron, Executive Director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at the American University in Washington, DC, talking about the advent of slow reading on CBC’s The Sunday Edition. It is an altogether more purposeful, less speedy and ideally distraction-free approach to reading paper-based print material.

England's Penny Black - the world's first postage stamp

England’s Penny Black – the world’s first postage stamp

Then there is the art of correspondence which is losing ground to texting, emails, videoconferencing and all manner of 20th and 21st century baubles of the instantaneous. Receiving written news with a stamp affixed is a rarity at our house. Our three young children are over the moon when letters, cards or postcards arrive in the letterbox.

Children's playground - City Park, Houston, Texas - 1909

Children’s playground – Sam Houston Park, Houston, Texas – 1909

Invariably they are from the family in Quebec or from grandparents on a far flung adventure. They are cherished momentarily, embraced with wonder and warmth. My second oldest daughter, now firmly ensconced in her adult years, has kept a bag of letters and postcards sent by family during her preschool and primary days when her mother and I lived in different cities.

This year, our young lad Noah-David is in 5th grade. His social sciences class is collecting postcards from around the world and this, PlayGroundology peeps – from North America, Europe, Australia and points beyond – is where you can help bring a smile to a young boy’s face. Take a moment and pop a postcard in the mail to Noah.

Overton Park, Memphis Tennessee

Overton Park, Memphis Tennessee

Although I enjoy these antiquarian playground postcards, he will likely appreciate something a bit more modern that speaks to your home and what kids like to get up to there. Our boy loves the natural world, playing outdoors and getting together a neighbourhood game of street hockey, soccer, football, baseball – insert sport of your choice here ___________.

If you’d like to send Noah-David a postcard, tweet me @PlayGroundology and I’ll DM you our address.

He’ll be jumping for joy when he reads your postcard. If you include your return address, Noah will write you a thanks from Canada’s far east….

Swell times at the beach....

Swell times at the beach….

Now about these ‘slow’ movements, is there a slow play movement somewhere off in the wings waiting to be introduced? Could loose parts make up part of its canon? Stay tuned to PlayGroundology for play news, views and the occasional esoterica.

Hearts of Play Go Global

Well PlayGroundology readers where do we see ourselves on the naughty or nice scale as we enter the Christmas season? I know that I’ve had a few questionable behaviours over the course of the year that may be getting looked at askance by that red-suited, twinkly-eyed, cookie-snacking guy…

Hearts of Play ReduxPhoto source – Leland Francisco. License – (CC BY 2.0)

In the hopes of spreading some good cheer and making up for my transgressions, I’m dusting off and sharing an updated version of the Haiku deck, Hearts of Play, that I put together a couple of years ago

The act of freely giving time, money, or goods, is always a sure fire means of enhancing one’s niceness stock regardless of faith origins. I hope that the Hearts of Play Haiku deck will encourage readers to consider giving a gift in support of kids and play. Think of it as one love, one heart, one play….

Without further ado, five groups doing great work in communities around the world. Nota – none of the five groups are aware of this post.

Playground Ideas

Playground Ideas II PlaygroundIDEAS. Photo source – PlaygroundIDEAS

Playground Ideas is a not-for-profit organization that designs and builds play spaces for the world’s most disadvantaged children. They support communities to create play spaces where there are none. Their open source designs and collaborative approach empower communities to create public play opportunities that invites local engagement. Their passion for play has taken them to Africa, Asia, South and North America, New Guinea and beyond. Founder Marcus Veerman recently presented at TEDxMelbourne.

Facebook
@playgroundideas
Web

East Africa Playgrounds

East AfricaEast Africa Playgrounds. Photo source – East Africa Playgrounds

East African Playgrounds is a Registered Charity in England and Wales (1129244) that aims to change the lives of children across East Africa by developing children’s learning opportunities and environments. We work alongside local communities to build simulating and exciting playgrounds, run arts and games programs as well as developing long term employment and training opportunities for young people across East Africa.

Facebook
@EastAfricanPlay
Web

Pop-Up Adventure Play

Pop UpPop-Up Adventure Play. Photo source – Pop-Up Adventure Play

Pop-Up Adventure Play imagines a time when all children have access to child-directed play in communities of supportive adults. Their work is grounded in a Pop-Up Adventure Playground model providing children of all ages and abilities with opportunities to recognize, explore, and express their natural play instincts… on their own terms. Pop-Up Adventure Play is a registered charity in the UK (#1148987). Since this deck was originally posted, this dynamic team has criss-crossed the USA, done a world tour and written a book

Facebook
@popupplay
Web

Playground Builders

Mak Play Not WarPlayground Builders. Photo source – Playground Builders

Playground Builders creates playgrounds for children in war-torn areas. There is often no safe place for children in these communities to play. Most have never experienced the joy of a swing or the thrill of a slide. We at Playground Builders are dedicated to building hope and peace through the gift of play. Playground Builders is a registered Canadian charity: #852810019RR0001.

Facebook
@PlayGrndBuilder
Web

Empower Playgrounds Inc.

Light up the NightEmpower Playgrounds Inc.. Photo source – empower playgrounds

Empower Playgrounds Inc. enhances educational opportunities for children in Ghanaian villages by providing renewable energy through electricity-generating playground equipment, smart LED lanterns and hands-on science kits. Empower Playgrounds is a nonprofit, tax-exempt registered 501(c)3 registered in the USA. In October of this year, the group released Lighting the Night: Mirabell’s Story available for viewing on Vimeo here.

Facebook
@playlightlearn
Web

While writing this post, I received the following from the Pop-Up Adventure Play crew, a little pre-Christmas serendipity.

Pop-up tweet

The original Hearts of Play Haiku deck can be found here. Happy giving from PlayGroundology….

First Contact

Loose parts play in public spaces is not yet commonplace in Halifax, Canada, PlayGroundology‘s home turf. When public play happenings, starring kid encounters with the bric à brac of ropes, tires, fabric, boxes, etc., do occur they’re awash in magical aha! moments at a somewhat more accelerated rate than in places where this form of play is more on the map.

Dragon alertDragon alert – Looseparts-apalooza, community led play from Adventure Play YHZ – Findlay Centre, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – Canada

Most kids here have never seen anything of the like, a conglomeration of matériels gathered with the express purpose of fueling child-led play. First contact moments – when kids meet loose parts play – run a range of reactions: bemusement, tentativeness, to full throttled exuberant exploration.

DSC06199Play Summit 2014, loose parts event presented by Assemble and Baltic Street Adventure Playground – Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland

My evidence-based experience in this topsy-turvy, quasi-anarchic world is still squarely in the neophyte range and is more anecdotal in nature rooted as it is in personal observations and shared commentary. What does seem prevalent though is that kids, even those older ones who are developing a veneer of studied cynicism, are quickly shifting into gear and embracing an engaged abandon in landscapes of their own making.

DSCF8800Apprentices – Nova Scotia Youth Running Series – loose parts play at Think Pink Anti-Bullying Race – Sackville, Nova Scotia – Canada

The luminosity of loose parts kids is striking. Their intent is intense and light at the same time. Their inner space reaches out to the outer place refashioning it with laughter and ideas and anything else at hand. The simplicity calls out for experimentation, for daring, for kidcentricity.

Giant strawGirls with giant’s straw – Looseparts-apalooza, community led play from Adventure Play YHZ – Findlay Centre, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – Canada

There is a charge coursing through the air. Kids who don’t know each other are playing together and moving beyond individual age groups. Cooperative play is de rigueur even though no adults have requested, or suggested it. Kids are testing their own limits taking risks they are comfortable with. On the periphery, parents are witness to a new play dynamic. Some say they will get loose parts for home use.

DSC06230Swinging in the rain – Play Summit 2014, loose parts event presented by Assemble and Baltic Street Adventure Playground – Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland

Loose parts spoke to the kids making a visceral connection. The kids in turn spoke back with their animated faces, their inventiveness, their thirst to make and build, their luminosity. In their actions with no prescribed outcomes and a touch of independence they embody a phenomenology of play.

DSCF8984Play crew – Nova Scotia Youth Running Series – loose parts play at Think Pink Anti-Bullying Race – Sackville, Nova Scotia – Canada

As I continue to participate with others in making loose parts play events available in public spaces, I will be paying more attention to documenting ‘first contact’ through photos and video. There is a lot of rich material there just waiting to be tapped.

In the interim, here are a few loose parts resources, listed alphabetically, for those looking for some ideas and inspiration.

Adventure Play YHZ

Children’s Scrapstore

Honk! Pop-up Play

Loose Parts Project

Oxfordshire Play Association

Playbox Scotland

Play Pods in Schools: An Independent Evaluation (2006-2009)

Pop-up Adventure Play

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play

Smart Play Network

Stomping in the Mud

The Cardboard Collective

SCIENCEHidden velocity – Looseparts-apalooza, community led play from Adventure Play YHZ – Findlay Centre, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – Canada

I’m hoping to play the loose parts tunes for quite some time. We’d love to hear about your loose parts play…..

DSC06231Play it again Sam – Play Summit 2014, loose parts event presented by Assemble and Baltic Street Adventure Playground – Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland