Monthly Archives: October 2013

Retro Play on the Farm

Dempsey Corner Orchard in Nova Scotia’s apple belt is a gem of a place. In the gentle rolling hills of the Annapolis Valley’s North Mountain an old playground standard and some do-it-yourself offerings take pride of place in the working farmyard.

Far from the unforgiving eyes of municipal insurers, from the exacting measurements and impact calculations of playground inspectors, this is a place where kids can still have some exhilarating, retro fun.


There’s some no holds barred spinning on one of the few remaining roundabouts in a radius of hundreds of miles. Once a playground stalwart, the roundabout is now a very rare sighting in our small corner of the world, definitely on the endangered list and not likely to be making a comeback.


It’s like a magnet for kids who are pulled to it immediately on arrival. Most of them would have never have experienced the delicious centrifugal force of a whirling roundabout. Apparently the sheep even like to get a spin in now and again too.

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I finally get up my courage and hop on board. Just a short ride brings back fine memories – happy, smiley faces all around.

Add a circle of tires sand pit and there’s no end to digging and jumping fun.


Sailing through the air with the greatest of ease.


And crossing chasms with bold steps.


Just as we are packing up, we discover some antique transportation à la Flintstones. There’s a snappy bespoke convertible…


…and a pick up ready to haul wood, apples, corn.


I’m interested in hearing from readers who know of simple yet magical, tucked away places like this that they’d like to share.

Do you remember when?

This was our second trip to Dempsey Corner Orchard. I wrote about the first trip in Harvest Playground three years ago. How quickly the kids are growing…



Somewhere in urban America, sometime ago, this lad jumped. And what a leap as he sails toward the fence.

If anyone knows the photographer, the jumper or the story behind this photo, I’d love to hear from you.

I jumped from a swing in motion when I was a kid and lived to tell the tale. It never approached the drama or daredevilry of the image above but nevertheless my buddies and I felt like we were living a little on the edge.

My young kids are doing it now too. There are such looks of wonder, fear and elation rapidly shifting across their faces as they fling themselves through the air.

This is a concrete example of a playground activity where kids assess risk. It’s all about their own ability and judgment as they face off against gravity.

Check the facial expressions and aerial acrobatics of these jumpers captured by flickr photographers and curated by PlayGroundology in JUMP.

2722837321_74639701fd_zPhoto credit – Wayne Silver. License – (CC BY 2.0)

Get out there and JUMP!

If you’re a swing lover, you may also enjoy – The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging.

Palle Nielsen reboots ‘Model for a Qualitative Society’

Back in the 1968, Palle Nielsen created a play happening in Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. There had never been a play space quite like it and it’s debatable if there’s ever been once since.

Palle Nielsen VSweden’s Minister of Education Olof Palme jumps in during a visit with his sons to the 1968 Model for a Qualitative Society at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet

Nielsen got up to some recent public play at the 2013 edition of Paris’ Nuit Blanche.


For more photos and background on Model for a Qualitative Society visit Architektur für Kinder. A more detailed and authoritative interpretation of the 1968 Stockholm event is available in Lars Bang Larsen’s essay, The Mass Utopia of Art Activism: Palle Nielsen’s The Model – A Model for the Qualitative Society

Palle, how about coming over to Canada’s Ocean Playground to work with us in putting together a creative public space for play. We have our own version of Nuit Blanche too – Nocturne.

PlaygroundIDEAS – Habitats for Play

Let’s make a rolling wave of applause as PlaygroundIDEAS launches its 150 Days of Play campaign to celebrate providing 150 high quality, low cost playground designs in an open source catalogue. Each day for the next 150 days they will feature a design a day from the design library on the Playground Ideas blog along with examples of how they have been used around the world.


Even though I’m an early riser and start writing in the small hours of the morning, Marcus and the crowd at PlaygroundIDEAS’ Melbourne, Australia home base have got us beat. They’re more than half a day ahead.

As I pen this draft they’re just about ready to grab some Monday lunch. Their news about the 150 free designs (up from 80 one year ago) has been rippling around the world for hours at the speed of play. As I finally push ‘publish’ around 6 Monday morning, supper will be long done in Melbourne.

If you’re not familiar with this international not-for-profit, you’re in for a treat. I immediately fell in love with PlaygroundIDEAS when I first stumbled across them online shortly after getting PlayGroundology up and running.

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They’re distinctive for a variety of reasons not least of which is how the work they do helps light up the faces of disadvantaged kids in communities in Asia, South America and Africa. Then of course, there is the inventiveness and simplicity of the playgrounds and individual play elements in and of themselves, a cross between tire recycling heaven and adventure playgrounds.

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There is also a great grassroots beat coursing through the work that PlaygroundIDEAS is doing with, and on behalf of, kids and play. I heard this firsthand when I interviewed founder and CEO Marcus Veerman a couple of years ago just as he was preparing for one of his first trips to East Africa. With the assistance of international volunteers and funders they help communities and schools make dedicated space for play a reality.

One of their more recent projects involves a playscape for a school in Kenya. A multi station obstacle course is very popular with the kids.


“…the playground is a motivation for kids to come to school, in fact it becomes very hard to get them out of school in the evenings after classes because they want to remain behind and play.”


The scope of the Ruben Centre project in Nairobi is huge and includes football fields, the obstacle course, a geodesic dome made from scrap pipe, a giant see-saw airplane and more. Click through for the story of this primary school with 2,000 kids that now has a rockin’ playground.

Another outstanding characteristic of PlaygroundIDEAS is its use of technology. For the playgrounds and play elements much of the source material is recycled (think tires) and locally available. The building technology is scaled to the environment, primarily people powered and does not rely on large machinery. Then there is the savvy tech use of the interweb to share stories, photos and designs, to build community, recruit volunteers and attract funders.

It’s a pretty complete package. If I could pack up the family tomorrow to volunteer on a build somewhere in this wide world, I’d be looking to Marcus and PlaygroundIDEAS to point me in the right direction.


As part of the 150 Days of Play celebration, PlaygroundIDEAS is hosting two design competitions for creating new elements for the library, one for kid designers and one for adults. Stay tuned to the PlaygroundIDEAS blog for details.

Thanks to Marcus, Elizabeth, the rest of the gang at PlaygroundIDEAS HQ, all the volunteers and funders for making a difference and helping to make the world a better place for kids.

Today is World Habitat Day, celebrated the first Monday in October since 1986. UN Habitat tags it ‘For A Better Urban Future’. Every human habitat should make provision for children’s play. What a great day for PlaygroundIDEAS to launch 150 Days of Play. Listen for the laughter, look for the smiles and you’ll know kids are playing.

All photos and images sourced from PlaygroundIDEAS.