The sky is wavy blue as our 3G walkers (grand-papa, papa and les filles) make their way to the beaver lands. As we start down the path, the girls discover another adventure, an attraction even more potent than a beaver lodge and a small stand of pointy stumps with tell tale gnawings. A long line of giant boulders unfolds before us.

DSC02507Up and over

It’s up and over, climb and slide, balance and big air. The girls are fully engrossed – measuring, gauging, examining each boulder for the right approach, the perfect purchase, the highest summit.

DSC02522Eyeing the summit

There are more than 50 of the oversize rocks that are placed just over a meter apart to prevent vehicles from driving onto an otherwise open field. Though not designed as a play area, it pretty much screams out to kids. The rocks – and I’ve never seen such a glorious abundance – are like magnets for the girls.

The rocks offer differing levels of difficulty, risk and excitement. Some are great jump off points for the next rock on the trail. Others might seem at first blush like little mountains of impregnability. Each one has its own contours, jutting ends and striated surfaces.

DSC02517Hanging on

The girls are happy to strut their stuff for grand-papa. I am proud to see them eager to test their physical abilities and stretch a little outside their comfort zones. We are here for nearly 20 minutes hop, skip and jumping along the line and back again.

There’s a natural staircase…..

DSC02532Stairway to heaven

…a table top…..

DSC02525Almost flat

…and plenty of jump off spots too.

DSC02509Coming down

Today this is the highlight of our visit. These supersized stones are affordances inviting kids to imagine them for something other than their presumed purpose. PlayGroundology friend Tim Gill wrote a lovely post on affordances in Rethinking Childhood – a blog you really can’t afford to miss.

After our field of stones, we head to a playground less than five minutes away by foot. The girls don’t appear to be nearly as inventive or daring here. If all the big rocks were marshalled onto the playground I wonder if there would be problems linked to liability, if they would be deemed too dangerous, too risky?

Seems like people can cause more damage at this off the shelf playground than they could in the field of rocks….


We’ll be back to climb, jump, slide and all the while we’ll keep on rockin’.

6 responses to “StoneHoppers

  1. Alex

    Great shots. Enjoyable for all



  2. Rocks are getting a lot of resistance from public clients. The City of Philadelphia is contemplating the removal of big rocks from one of its major playgrounds/parks and a recent playscape competition there stated “no rocks” in their program. What are your recommendations for including rocks in vital play?


    • Hi Carol – thx for your comment. I don’t think Philadelphia is alone re the rocks though I don’t have any data to support this, it’s a hunch. These are the kind of things that we seek out in natural settings far from rules and guidelines other than those we set ourselves based on knowledge of our kids’ abilities. I should also add far away also from litigation chill. In this particular instance the large rocks are on municipal land which is not in a play area. Kids, and anyone else for that matter, are free to play on the rocks. I don’t believe though that they would ever get transported to a playground as a play piece because of a perception of danger and risk. It’s a crazy world and we can help change it…. Cheers, Alex


  3. What a great idea for a play space! Simple. Just unsafe enough to invite deep play. Open-ended. Lots of challenges and drama to invent.


    • How are things Bernie? I’ve got a little project I’m cooking up and would like to get some feedback, see what you think of it. Maybe a skype at some point – we could DM each other our skype handles on twitter. Cheers and as always thanks for your comments…


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