Category Archives: adventure play

Nature Rocks

We are in a land of wild and rugged splendour. Over millions of years, earth, sea, wind and ice have sculpted the coastlines of Western Newfoundland. In Gros Morne National Park, cliffs with layered columns of shale and granite overlook tidal pools peppered with huge boulders. Further north, shallow sweeps of sandy beach skirt grassy shores. Throughout our stay, we embrace this interstitial zone between dancing seas and mountains’ cloudy crowns.

Sheaves Cove, Port au Port Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador

In August’s warm shine there is much to explore. The kids are as wowed as we are. It seems that every new turn unveils another breathtaking vista. Play comes alive in this place beyond any urban dreaming of it. Each striking landscape becomes an invitation to adventure. There is a palpable attraction for the kids to incorporate the natural world surrounding them as the central element in their activities.

On the Port au Port Peninsula to the south, a rockbed stream rushes over a precipice and into Sheaves Cove below. It is one of two ‘hidden’ waterfalls whose whereabouts are made known to drivers on The French Ancestors’ Route 460 by handmade, roadside signs. Sometimes it’s like this – as easy as one, two, three – climb, jump, and hop.


There is a whisper of danger as they jump down onto the rock slabs that are nearly level with the stream’s last few metres. A stumbled, false landing could propel them right into the water. From the looks on their faces and the excited conversations, it’s clear that the kids are experiencing an adrenalin jolt each time they leap off the edge.

I find myself cautioning our youngest and directing her to not jump off one of the higher rocks. Looks like killjoy papa is not practising what he preaches. Lila though is not one to give up easily. She chips away with repeated requests and finally I relent. Turns out she is more than capable and in this instance has no difficulty keeping pace with her older siblings. Discovery and fun are the touchstones here as our trio stretches their abilities and their repertoires.

Back within the boundaries of Gros Morne, experimentation and pushing limits continues in a rush of low tide, sea spray parkour. Below Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, the terrain is uneven with moist sand, pooling water and assorted natural debris underfoot. No one run follows the same route as its predecessor and the kids wind up each burst across the rocks with a ta-daa like flourish.

Low tide parkour games at Lobster Cove Head in Gros Morne Natinal Park

Spatial orientation, rapid risk assessment and sure-footedness are all being called on as the kids pick their way through the randomly strewn boulders. They test their abilities by navigating different paths through the maze and pursuing new personal best times. Fortunately, papa can rely on his precision, built in steamboat counter to clock each run.


Conditions here are perfect – a light, salt breeze, the rhythmic roll of sputtering waves and some time to leisurely while away in simple pursuits. Our spontaneous, unplanned rock hopping adventure is the highlight of the day.

Further up the coast in Green Point, the cliff face reveals a geological storybook. This rock of the ages plays an important role in our understanding of how the earth developed way, way back in the day (apologies for the technical language here). For the kids though, the primary attractions are the climbing challenge and the tactile sensations of the tidal pools.

Green Point, Gros Morne National Park where the rock of ages collide

The kids are all about getting to the top. Each of them proceeds at their own pace meandering up the natural steps and stairs, pausing along the way to examine interesting outcrops. The relatively gentle slope and the unfamiliar rock formations present just the right amount of challenge. The ascent is invigorating and builds confidence in judgment and physical abilities.


What goes up must come down and the skills developed on the upward journey are in even greater demand on the descent. The kids gingerly pick their way over the rock testing for stability. As they hit the flats, the pace and hazards change. The rocks around the tidal pools are wet and slippery and require a cautious approach. It’s worth the slow going to see and touch crabs, sea urchins and other creatures. From land to sea and back again our contented crew chalks up another playful outing.

Kids adapt to this place easily embracing the awesomeness of the natural world’s unmitigated wonder. Intuitively they understand the value of safeguarding this beauty, this diversity. The large expanses largely unfettered by human development emphasize that nature does indeed rock and provides unlimited potential for outdoors play, adventure and discovery.

Tablelands, Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne has become one of our new favourite places to get away and we hope to return every couple of years. It’s not always easy to find the time or the resources to visit places like these. Look for what’s available closer to home and take advantage of green, natural spaces. Your kids will thank you for it and if you’re urban dwellers like us, you might just enjoy getting out of the city…

Earlier this year a new resource supported by the Lawson Foundation,, was developed for parents and caregivers to help them “manage their fears and develop a plan for change so their children can have more opportunities for risky play”. If you’re wondering about risk and play, this is a good source of information and a great place to start.

May the play be with you…..

From Hong Kong with Love

Over the years, PlayGroundology has received lots of wonderful comments from readers and play enthusiasts around the world. It is a real pleasure to think that in some small ways the blog is helping to inspire people to advocate for a greater variety of public play spaces for kids. Today, a comment arrived from Hong Kong regarding a post published in 2012.

I lived near this park. I was born in 1969, the same year as this park opened. These sculptures accompanied me since I was born, until I was 16. They were then too old and replaced by new playground facilities.

The most fascinating thing about this playground is that it was composed of 4 different sand pools. Kids built sand castles there everyday. Besides, those sculptures possessed secret holes and spaces where kids could play hide and seek. A kid could hide himself inside a sculpture so secretly that no one could discover him within 10 minutes. Amazed?

Every night, lovers would hide themselves inside those “holes”, kissing each other and ………..

These park brought me a marvelous childhood, wonderful memory!!!!!!

An article was published earlier today in Hong Kong about this playground from the past. I don’t read, or speak Chinese but for those who do, the article is reproduced below with some lovely photos.

Damon Leung kindly provided the English translation which follows the original HK01 article.

剛過去的星期日,到西九文化區的市民,沿著海旁的欄杆散步,可見到數十張被架起的照片和它們的詳盡解說。那是當日進行的社區藝術節目「青涌生活節」的一部份,策劃機構「創不同」(MaD) 聯同葵青區的街坊,用不同創意形式,在西九展現葵涌和青衣的社區文化。由葵青歷史照片構成的裝置,由藝術策劃人樊樂怡與同事構思和製作,當日人人都對其中四張照片嘖嘖稱奇,在她意料之內:原來,將近50年前,葵涌有過一個極前衛的遊樂場。一切發現,從遇上幾張照片開始。
撰文:城市創作實驗室創辦人 黃宇軒

b0cf47dd7fceb946d4896cd768271a8250年前位於石籬的前衛遊樂場 (從「青涌生活節」現場翻拍)





58d9bfe0a4e4cdfbf854ad6263901fe350年前位於石籬的前衛遊樂場 (來源: Playgroundology)

設施無法歸類成滑梯鞦韆 反而更像雕塑

幾張照片,帶來了一條線索:在人人都抱怨遊樂場設施愈來愈倒退的今天,舊日遊樂場除了懷舊討論區時時見到的款式外,香港遊樂空間,原來有過非常另類的一頁,而那看來也是香港藝術史和藝術空間史上重要的一頁。照片上看到這個遊樂場其中四種大型玩樂設施,都很難歸類為滑梯、 鞦韆等,它們更像大型的現代雕塑,有抽象的、有簡約的、有像超現實主義作品、有的甚至像後現代設計。除了罕見的雕塑狀設計,遊樂場背後的山坡還被當成畫布,漆上簡約抽象的圖樣。這個「雕塑遊樂場」的佈局,顯然充滿藝術構思。

原來它的設計者,正是一位熱心藝術教育、曾經在香港工作的美國藝術家。樊樂怡指出:「照片僅有的文字解說,提到它位處石籬徙置屋邨,在1969年建成時,是在亞洲唯一有、該類型的遊樂場,由美國藝術家Paul Selinger所造,當時的皇家賽馬會捐了$15萬元建成……網上暫時可找到的資料,也大概是這些。」年報上的資料也說明,Paul Selinger將香港視為第一站,更希望這個前所未有的遊樂場, 還可在別的地方繼續出現,他希望當中的建設,既是可被觀賞的雕塑作品,也是可讓人遊玩的新類型設施。


由美國藝術家設計 香港給他「藝術自由實現意念」



「暫時可進一步找到的資料不多,其中,那位藝術家(Paul Selinger)回到美國後,曾寫過一封信給一本叫Rotarian的雜誌,行文中對在香港建的遊樂場十分自豪,還批評美國不夠香港開放。」Selinger在這封題為《美國遊樂場:有限的視野》的信中這樣寫:「作為一個剛好在香港居住和工作過的美國人,我有機會在石籬實踐我的設計意念,我懷疑,在美國這就不可能實現。我回來後跟在頂尖美國建築行的園景建築師談過,就更確信是如此。他們抱怨要不斷倒出模華而不實的設計去滿足欠缺視野的市政官員。我的意念可在香港被證明是成功的,因為我被給予藝術自由,去將它們實現。……我回來(三藩市灣區) 後發現與公園和公務相關的官員、還有建築師,只會在現成的目錄中選一些不同顏色、但同款的設施放在遊樂場裡……要說服決策者設計遊樂場時,想像力是重要的,才可讓情況改變。」



為了讓更多人理解這種曾足以教香港自豪的想像力,樊樂怡開始一個小型研究計劃,正式研究這個香港有過、近乎難以置信的遊樂場:「因為初步找到的資料太少,下一步,我想訪問石籬的街坊、房署、區議員、Paul Selinger在香港工作時遇上過的人和機構,甚至他的家人。」

僅有的資料顯示,2015年底才離世的Paul Selinger,1961年起在香港大學任教藝術,1969年落實了這個前衛遊樂場的構想不久,就返回美國。今天重尋這個遊樂場的資料,除了追尋香港有過的「奇跡」,慨歎這個城市將近50年前有過的前衛空間今天不復再,和倡議建設更有創意的公共遊樂場外,也是重現全球現代遊樂場史裡的一小塊拼圖。



(如認識任何人用過這遊樂場,或有任何跟這遊樂場相關的資料,可聯絡樊樂怡,支持她繼續研究這前衛遊樂場的計劃 )

Playground Project


Author: Wong Yu Hin, founder of the Urban Creation Laboratory
Last Sunday, the visitors of the West Kowloon Cultural District would see dozens of photographs and their detailed explanations along the railings of the waterfront. It was a part of the community art program “Kwai Chung Festival”. Organization (MaD), together with the neighbours of Kwai Tsing, showcased the community cultures of Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi in the West Kowloon in various creative ways. The setup consisted of Kwai Tsing historical photos was designed and developed by the art planner Fan Lokbi and her colleagues. During the exhibition everyone was amazed on four photos as she expected. They showed that Kwai Chung had a very avant-garde playground 50 years ago and everything started with the discovery of these few photos.

How the unknown avant-garde playground was discovered?
“Kwai Chung Festival” was a program organized by District Councils and MaD jointly. Fan Lokbi remembered that during a meeting with district counselors, she was informed that there had been a Wah Tak Studio in Kwai Chung before. So when she was looking for historical pictures of Kwai Tsing District, she would pay special attention to whether there was any trace of Wah Tak Studio and later she got an unexpected reward.

She went to the Image Library of the Information Office to check the color photos in the annual reports. “I had turned over each year until I turned to 1969, I saw six exotic playground photos. They were so colorful. I was shocked by one of the playground photo. The Wah Tak Studio, I have long been looking for, was shown at the lower right corner of that photo. That meaned the colorful playground was located in Kwai Chung.

Fan Lokbi, who was engaged in the art, met this unfamous playground along the path of Kwai Tsing to Wah Tak Studio, and to the Hong Kong annual report. Familiar with Kwai Chung geography and architectures, she found no information about the playground on the Internet after a little search. She knew that this might be a big discovery.

Facilities can not be classified as slides or swings but more like sculptures.
A few photos brought a clue about an importnt page in the art histories of Hong Kong and its amusement area. Everyone is complaining about the playground facilities getting backwards today. However, in addition to the old styles of playgrounds shown in the nostalgic discussion groups, Hong Kong amusement area in fact have had a very different page before. Photos showed the playground, of which the four large-scale recreational facilities were difficult to classify as slide or swing. They were more like large modern sculptures, abstract, simple, just like surrealist works. Some were even like postmodern designs. In addition to the rare sculpture design, the hillside behind the playground also was treated as a canvas and painted with simple abstract drawings. The layout of this “sculpture playground” was clearly full of artistic ideas.

Its designer, who was enthusiastic about art education and had worked in Hong Kong, was an American artist. Fan Lokbi pointed out, “The only text explanation of the photo mentioned that it is located in the Shek Lei resettlement estate. Built in 1969, this type of playground was the only one in Asia made by American artist Paul Selinger. At that time the Royal HK Jockey Club donated HK$150,000 to build it. Online information about the playground is probably the same as these.” The information on the annual report also showed that Paul Selinger regarded Hong Kong as the first stop and hoped that this unprecedented playground would keep appearing in other places. He also hoped that the construction could be viewed as sculpture works and also be a new type of facilities to let people amaze.

Designed by American Artist, “Artistic Freedom” was given by Hong Kong to realize his ideas.
“In the online and community history, almost no information about it. In fact Hong Kong had such an avant-garde playground, which synchronized the trend of Europe and the United States at that moment.” Fan Lokbi found that the world’s famous blog Playgroundology, which studied the playground design as a new social science, had talked about this park on its website. Playgroundology encountered related information in the United Kingdom national archives. From the information its location was known as “colonial Kowloon”. Playgroundology received even less information than Fan Lokbi, so no study followed of course. Knowing Playgroundology asked for more relevant information, she shared the information found accidentally with their experts.

“There is not much further information available. After the artist (Paul Selinger) returned to the United States, he had written a letter to a magazine called Rotarian. He was proud of the playground in Hong Kong and criticized the United States for being less open to Hong Kong.” In the letter entitled “American Playground: A Limited Vision” Selinger wrote, “As an American who lived and worked in Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to realize my design ideas in Shek Lei. I doubted if this could be achieved in the United States. I talked with the landscaped architects at the top American architecture after I came back, the case was even more so. They complained that they should continue to pour out the meeless design to meet those municipal officials who lacked vision. My ideas proved successful in Hong Kong because I was given the freedom of art to realize them. After I came back (San Francisco Bay Area), I found the officials associated with the park and civil service, as well as architects, would only choose some different colors but the same facilities on the playground from the ready-made catalog. To convince policymakers during the design of a playground, imagination was important in order to make the situation change.”

Hong Kong playground as a new page of the global post-war building trend.
In order to let more people understand this imagination which Hong Kong to be proud of, Fan Lokbi began a small research program, an official study of this almost incredible playground in Hong Kong, “Because the initial information was too little, I would like to visit the neighborhoods of Shek Lei, the HD, District Council members, Paul Selinger’s co-workers in Hong Kong and even his family.”

The only information showed that Paul Selinger, who died at the end of 2015, taught art at the University of Hong Kong since 1961. Soon after the concept of the avant-garde playground was implemented, he returned to the United States in 1969. Searching for the playground information today, in addition to the pursuit of such a “miracle” Hong Kong had before, the city was lamented for the avant-garde space nearly 50 years ago which was no longer there today. Not only as initiatives to build more creative public playgrounds, but also to reproduce a small piece of puzzle in the history of the world’s modern playgrounds.

After the Second World War, innovative young students and artists in Europe and the United States were actively engaged in public utilities for the people and contributed to a large number of avant-garde and whimsical designs. These designs were implemented in public buildings, especially in the design of public housing, public spaces and public facilities. The playground was a particularly experimental page. Many “rugged” pioneer playgrounds came into being, so far were still fascinating the world. But it was unexpected that a Hong Kong’s resettlement estate would use abstract sculptures as the theme and had connected to the history of avant-garde playground since 1969.

​Amsterdam’s Wild West: Nature Play at Woeste Westen

Ed’s note – I’m a fan of Glasgow-based City of Play. I’m a sucker for cable spools and other playcycled materials. Though I’m born and bred in Canada, my roots are from Scotland’s west coast. Having had the good fortune to visit and stay with family on several occasions as a young boy, I have a soft spot for the places along the River Clyde where my parents both grew up.

When I heard that City of Play co-founder Grant Menzies was off on a bit of a play research jaunt, I asked him if he would like to guest post here at PlayGroundology. Here he is for your reading pleasure. Woeste Westen really seems like a crossover space to me where nature play meets adventure playground. More on Grant following the post.

Woeste Westen is an exceptional natural ‘playscape’ a short bike journey west of Amsterdam City Centre. Natural playgrounds are not uncommon in the country however this is one of the few that has the psychical presence of an organisation to support it.

Considering the country’s unique geography it is perhaps unsurprising that water features quite heavily in park. To be honest, it’s the main feature. The site was once harvested for peat leaving a series of manmade waterways which have been bridged, dammed, pumped and… eh… rafted? That is, there is a water pump and a raft.


There are also any number or den building, climbing and balancing opportunities; bonfire sites; and animal habitats both natural and man made… /child made. This amazing (and it is amazing, look at the pictures) natural playscape is supported by the weekly run Adventure Club and onsite clubhouse/ parents cafe.


Woeste Westen is a truly inclusive landscape offering challenges and opportunities for all ages and abilities. A series of crossing points present different challenges to span the water with varying degrees of difficulty. Rope bridges, felled trees, wobbly bridges, rafts, stepping stones and shallows ensure that the body and mind are continually tested without being forced to encounter unmanageable risks. This is a land and waterscape to invite and excite all.

The abundance of water and wildlife not only provides play value but is a soothing and calming influence. Although chaotic, Woeste Westen is peaceful and pleasant in a manner rarely achieved through other designed “Nature” playgrounds.


Our arrival coincided with the rain. We witnessed the Adventure Club dress in waterproofs building fires and making popcorn showing that this is an all weather experience.

At Woeste Westen we met founder Martin Hup a former biology and environmental education teacher. Martin discovered this publicly owned piece of land around 8 years ago not much different from what it is now, as a playground with the raft and bridges, but it was rarely used. Although only a few minutes from the bustling city it was still in the middle of nowhere; children/families had no need to pass by and therefore it was not used.


Martin – as a self confessed adventurer, former Boy Scout and expert in environmental education but with no vision of continuing to be a teacher – saw an opportunity to exploit an underused resource to promote environmental education and facilitate outdoor play. He sought funding from the local government to install a hub with a cafe, toilets and office, to create a perimeter fence and to form the Adventure Club. He says ‘This lets parents feel it is safe, they know there is usually someone here and it has a secure gate – of course it is not “safe” it is about risky play! – but the perception is different.’

Still he insists he is not a play worker, he/they programme events and are ‘facilitators’. The playground, although now fenced, is still public property but without their presence – running the Adventure Club and serving “fine coffee” – no one would use it.

Martin knows his stuff, and he knows that even with Amsterdam’s abundance of playgrounds that free play is on the decline and that parents are to blame. ‘They are scared of cars and the “dangerous man” that wants to harm their children. In fact, there is no more danger than in the 70’s.’


Concerned, if not dismayed, by reports of schools in the Netherlands removing skipping ropes and balls from pupils due to parent complaints of injury, Martin and the Adventure Club warn that they actively seek risks in their sessions.

Many new parents and even children visiting the park show the same nerves we commonly see in our risk averse time; many concerned by how often their child might climb a tree – God forbid they should get a scratch or a bruise! In Woeste Westen you may well break a leg… But *shrugs* “so what?”. Although it might surprise you to learn that with 57,000 visits per year they still haven’t had any serious injuries.

Martin describes that when children visit, despite initial reservations, they are somewhat set free. They can run and explore and experience the joy of discovering nature for themselves but also they experience a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi ‘ – in a rare moment of broken English described as like “touching their inner Neanderthal” they are wild again.


Grant gained his Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from the University of Strathclyde in Nov 2012. Inspired by the birth of his first daughter, Grant’s thesis focused around the needs and rights of children in urban design. Subsequently, Grant developed an understanding of, and passion for, play and ensuring its proper and right provision.

Grant also spent a semester studying Landscape design under Henry WA Hanson at the Czech Technical University in Prague.

Having funded his time while at University working in the building services Grant has an interest and skill at making, fixing and up-cycling as can be seen in works such as The Twits Chairs.

If you have a play story you’d like to share with PlayGroundology readers, give us a shout. Cheers

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

Hello CTV Morning Live Viewers

Thanks to Heidi and the Morning Live crew for profiling play on the show. If you tuned into the segment today and are interested in more background or resources, here are a couple of places to start. Click on the image, or all CAPS title to take you to Storify content.

Adventure and Loose Parts – Storify

Adventure and Loose Parts


Talking about risk and play, here are a few resources.

A Greater Risk

A greater risk

More PlayGroundology content on Storify here.

Check Adventure PlayGround YHZ for adventure play info and upcoming events. Stay tuned for details on loose parts play on the October 24 weekend in Halifax.


Glasgow Green is Calling

Later today I do the Halifax – Heathrow jet skip with a final touchdown in Glasgow just a couple of weeks shy of the XX Commonwealth Games kick off that happens to fall on my birthday. It’s the second time this year that I’m a guest at a cousin’s wedding on Scotland’s west coast. Joyous days for the couples walking down the aisle and wonderful occasions for all of us to make new friends and reconnect with family on both sides of the Atlantic.

DSC06197Glasgow Green – Play Summit Pop-Up Adventure – April 2014
My April trip coincided with the Play Summit spearheaded by Nils Norman (check Nils’ great photobank of playscapes here) and London’s Assemble. The Summit symposium featured leading play thinkers, advocates and activists in the People’s Palace and adventure play shenanigans for kids on Glasgow Green.

I was able to pop in for a couple of hours and immerse myself in conversations and presentations about adventure play. It was exciting to meet and chat with people like Hitoshi Shimamura who flies the adventure play banner in Tokyo where, he told me, there’s an aversion to fences around playgrounds. The goal is to offer an inviting, open space that presents no boundaries or barriers with the surrounding community.

Tim Gill and I sat down for lunch and a chat. Early on in my exploration of playgrounds I had sent Tim a few questions on the possibility of developing a play index that could capture how local authorities were measuring up to enabling play opportunities for their young citizens. He sent me a thoughtful and informative response that included suggested contacts and the friendly pointer that an undertaking of this nature would present unique and complex challenges.

No FearClick photo for free download courtesy of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundtation

True to form when we lunched under the glass dome of the People’s Palace, Tim was generous with his time and gave me a broad overview of the UK play landscape from his vantage point. PlayGroundology reblogs some of Tim’s work from rethinking childhood and I never tire of referencing his book, now in its third printing – No Fear – Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society – to parents, educators and the media.

Over the years, I’ve seen some great photos and video from London’s Glamis Adventure Playground. It was a thrill to be in the audience for Mark Halden’s presentation on some of the problems Glamis is encountering with fundraising. He bemoaned the significant time and energy that had to be dedicated to this activity. In an environment with small teams and already parsed budgets, the effort associated with financing can detract from programming for the kids.

Mark has a Canada connection too and has spent time in BC. He made me aware of a well loved and regarded play advocate, Valerie Fronczek who passed away last year. Many people spoke her name when they heard I was from Canada. Valerie was a respected and engaged member of the play community and worked tirelessly for kids. From what I heard, it would have been great to have known her.

What struck me during my brief interlude at the Play Summit was the sense of community and camaraderie amongst the participants. It was one of those gatherings where there was a lot of information flow and the delineation between presenters and practitioners was very porous. Many of of those in attendance had dedicated much of their working lives to help kids and play.

Just before I hopped into a cab to take me back to Central Station, I came across a playground with huge slide structures. I had to grab a few shots while the taxi waited. They sure looked like Spielgerate designs to me. When I visit again in a few days, I’ll give them a test run if I’m not chased away by parents.

DSC06992Towering, twisting slides on Glasgow Green

April’s pop-up adventure on Glasgow Green was an early days event for the Baltic St. Adventure Playground which is located nearby in the Dalmarnock district. Their official opening weekend is on for July 19 and 20. I’ll be back in Canada by then but playworker Robert Kennedy has kindly offered to give me a tour during my visit. It will be the first time I set foot in an adventure playground. It would be perfect if I could have our three kids with me – another time…


I’m hoping to get over to Fife too and learn a bit about some of the play happenings there from twitter friend @MairiMo. Mairi was a great help during my April visit and set up a meeting with Theresa Casey, a play author, consultant and President of the International Play Association. I’ll have more to share on the IPA and the meeting with Theresa in a subsequent post.

Glasgow Green and Edinburgh was time well spent and the first real opportunity I have had to meet with and hear the experiences of so many play people which is resulting in both pragmatic and inspirational returns. The Glasgow Green pop-up really got me juiced to work with others in Halifax to create a similar event. It will be taking place in September in association with the Youth Running Series. I’ll be picking Robert’s brains later this week to see what he can share and suggest.

DSC06231Pop-Up will be playing in Halifax, Canada soon. Thanks to the Play Summit and Baltic St. Adventure Playground for the inspiration

There may be some surprises of the dragon variety on this trip too. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m wrapping this post by giving a big shout out to my papa who will be 80 later this year. He’s an enthusiastic supporter of and sometime photographer for PlayGroundology. Yesterday, along with one his brothers and my brother and sister-in-law, he completed a six-day walk across Hadrian’s Wall. Their longest day was 27 kilometres. He did a number of interviews along the way with people from a variety of countries and is considering putting it all together to share on YouTube. This man just continues to blow me away.

It’s well past my bedtime and I need to get some rest for the long day ahead. Glasgow Green is calling and play is piping the tune. In this year of the Homecoming it’s Scotland Forever.

Pop-Ups On The Road 2014

Itinerant playmakers and PlayGroundology friends Pop-Up Adventure Play are on the road in a big way this year. PlayGroundology asked Suzanna Law if she could contribute a guest post to share some of her thoughts and experiences about the group’s recently concluded US tour. We’re happy she took us up on the offer. Stay tuned for future tour dates, perhaps you can organize to have them come to a community near you. I know we’ll be looking for an opportunity to bring them to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Exactly two months and eleven days ago, I was a ball of anxiety. I was in a snow storm with my colleague Anna and her two children battling our way to Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA to meet Morgan, our other colleague. As the car fought its way through the thick blanket of snow, I started to wonder if a two-month tour of the USA was a good idea.

This then triggered a whole wave of other thoughts: Will the hosts be ready for us? Would the little yellow car we chose be able to complete the journey? Are we really ready for this? But really, my biggest question was this: Was I going to make it to the first stop of the tour? Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Two months and six days on, after “sleeping for a thousand hours” (as Morgan put it) the tour is complete and I am ready to reflect on my adventure. And wow, was it incredible.

PopUp1Here is our little yellow car! It traveled through 28 States and did around 11,000 miles!

Let’s talk about some details first. Ever since Pop-Up Adventure Play was formed about 3 years ago, we have been invited to communities across the world but primarily in the USA. People have been wanting to find out more about playwork and to find out how they can bring more playful opportunities into their own homes. Above all, they wanted some people who have worked in the field before to come into their community to tell everyone that play is a good idea.

The biggest barrier to our visits has been the cost of travel which isn’t always an enormous amount, but is a stumbling block for many. Having mulled over this for a while, we decided to organise a tour! This would reduce travel costs as we’d already be on the road, and we would also be able to go where we would be invited. And that’s how we began the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014!

PopUp2Cardboard Sledding at Bernheim Arboretum in Kentucky

As the Tour Organizer, I had a personal aim of getting 7 locations on the tour. In my mind, it would be a success if I had one event every weekend. Morgan and I would form the core tour team and we would bring in our friends to be part of the tour. Using a combination of social media and reaching out to some of our existing contacts, we started the tour with 14 confirmed locations. Two weeks into the tour, we had somehow booked another 2 stops on the tour and had reached our limit: Pop-Ups Tour 2014 would be a 16 stop tour. I still can’t believe it.

PopUp3Chasing the robot at Manhattan Beach, CA

Oh goodness, and how could I not talk about our Special Guests? Grant Lambie, Andy Hinchcliffe and Erin Davis joined us for parts of the tour, bringing their expertise to communities who asked for a little extra; who wanted knowledge and experience that we didn’t have. They truly brought an extra spark to the tour, supporting us with their know-how, encouragement and car care.

Some really stand out moments of the trip have been with hosts at their locations. They have been absolutely amazing and inspirational, standing on the frontline of what feels like an American Adventure Play movement. They are brave and bold, and determined to create a playful, adventure-filled future for their children and for the communities in which their children live, all the while working within a society that isn’t all too familiar with play for it’s own sake. I have been blown away by their passion for play.

PopUp4Adventure Playground at the Parish School in Houston, TX

PopUp5An incredible place to play in Cary, NC

It may have been hard work driving a tiny yellow car across the US and stopping mostly to deliver workshops, run Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds and to sleep, but it was totally worth the journey. Anxiety and tiredness aside, the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014 was a complete success. I’m so chuffed (British for “really pleased”) about this whole thing which you can read more about on our blog and am proud to announce that we’ll be doing this all again in 2015! If you want to be part of our next adventure, please email me on

PopUp6Bouncing off the inflatable loose parts in Portland, OR