Category Archives: flickr gallery

Setting Sail for Play

Life of Pi - The PrequelShip’s Company from the Adventure Playground series. Photo credit – John Drysdale, circa 1960s. Source – Victoria and Albert Museum

Boats exude an elemental mystery. Fresh water, or briny sea they hold the promise of adventure and discovery. Whether in wavy tossed expanse or landlocked far from shore they are dream makers for voyagers young and old.

19579885394_0570494a89_k(1)Merseyside’s Black Pearl (story here), New Brighton, UK. Photo credit – Pete Birkinshaw, (CC BY 2.0)

Although I have no empirical evidence, I will hazard a guess and suggest that boats are among the top three transportation modes represented in play spaces around the world. The two others include the space class – rockets, shuttles, etc. and cars.

DSC09555Jubilee Park, Bridgetown, Nova Scotia.

Playground boats range in size from the small dory that graces the banner of the PlayGroundology FB page to the larger than life Amager Ark which is part of the Himmelhøj play artscape on Amager Island in Copenhagen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmager Ark – Himmelhøj, Copenhagen. Photo credit – by the artist Alfio Bonanno.

In Canada’s Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence there is a recurring boat motif in playscapes throughout the archipelago. They are favourites with our kids whenever we visit and have a deep rooted connection to the people and the place.

DSC07548L’Étang du Nord, Cap-aux-Meules, Magdalen Islands.

Running across decks, scrambling up ropes, hiding in holds are activities for young sailors, captains, deckhands, swabs, pirates, fishermen, explorers, or warriors as they set off on an adventurous round of play.

In Halifax, PlayGroundology’s home port, we have a number of boat play spaces and even a submarine. Our iconic boat, a trawler by the name of Halcyon, was retired a few years back after more than 25 years of service in the name of fun. The video below is a short tribute to busy play days on the boat with our daughter Nellie-Rose, in her younger years, leading the charge.

Boats for Play I and Boats for Play II are flickr galleries with photos of boat playgrounds around the world. Does your community have any boat playscapes? If so, post some photos on PlayGroundology FB.

Boats are in my blood. My father and grandfather both worked in the shipyards on the River Clyde in Scotland. My grandfather was an avid model yachtsman and as I write this I look up at one of the trophies he was awarded – The Port Glasgow Model Yacht Club’s Tosh Memorial Shield which his boat the Fairy won in 1952.

As a young adult in the 1970s I had the opportunity to work on board two Canadian Coast Guard ships, an icebreaker in the Arctic and a buoy boat around Nova Scotia’s shores – quite an adventure for a lad of 16. All that to say that I do love a boat playground. You can pipe me on board anytime…

Jump

Jump

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.

Playgrounds from the Land of St. Patrick

Play and playgrounds from Eire and Northern Ireland in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

265140989_d75aceccfd_zPhoto credit: jump by Fittzer. License – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Get to the St. Patrick’s Day Flickr Gallery by clicking through on the green.

For more on play in Ireland visit Sugradh and Playboard.

Playground Menagerie

We are the only species that sets aside dedicated space to be used exclusively for play by our young. But in many countries throughout the world humans are not the only ones populating playgrounds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlayground in Sofia, Bulgaria. Source: Snezhka Karatoteva.

It’s as if some of Noah’s precious charges were peppered across playscapes to watch over and amuse the human young. There are African and Australian animals from the wild, barnyard favourites and mythical creatures.

DragonDragon playground with designer Mr. Khor in Toa Payoh, Singapore. Source: Mosaic Memories – Remembering the Playgrounds Singapore Grew Up In by Justin Zhuang.

The playground animals serve multiple roles – slides, teeter-totters, climbers and springriders. They are also a friendly reminder that there is a natural world for us to engage with and care for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlayground in Sofia, Bulgaria. Source: Snezhka Karatoteva.

There are more great photos from Zemen, Bulgaria to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in the PlayGroundology curated gallery ‘Animal Farm’ right here.

Editor’s note – thanks to Snezhka Karatoteva from Sofia, Bulgaria who recently dropped in on the PlayGroundology FB Page and offered to share playground photos with PlayGroundology readers. Check the blog here.

War or Peace

Recently, I posted the photo below on PlayGroundology FB commenting that I thought the tank had found a better purpose than for what it was originally intended. One of my regular readers didn’t agree. She thinks war machinery has no place in kids’ playgrounds.

A couple of days later I came across articles in the San Francisco Chronicle about a fighter plane that had been a play structure fixture for more than three decades in San Francisco’s Larsen Park. It got me thinking, would I allow our three young kids to play on a tank, or in a fighter jet?

2232931829_6456a00e50_bMonstrum playscape in Nørrebroparken, Copenhagen. Photo credit – Jan Ingemansen. License – (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Back in the mid-1960s as a young lad in grade school getting the bi-monthly short back and sides at the barbers, I was an avid after school and weekend warrior. I lived in Toronto then and our apartment block bordered on a 10 to 15 acre green space. The hills were dotted with unmanicured shrubs and a valley plain served as a soccer and baseball field, bike rodeo and a gathering place for war games. It was a green oasis but no pastoral idyll. On the other side of a six foot high Frost fence at the southern extremity of our play zone, the 12-lane 401 highway roared by. Our activities continually played out to the droning buzz of fast flow traffic.

Along with sports and playgrounding, war games were a recurring part of our play menu. Even though real life conflicts in Vietnam and Biafra raged on newscasts we chose our recreations from contemporary pop culture. Sgt. Rock, who seemingly single-handedly won the World War II for the allies, was one of our primary inspirations for mid-century warfare. James Bond was of course our role model in the world of spylike skullduggery against our Cold War foes. A number of us were packing the 007 spy attaché case.

Sgt. Rock

Reaching further back in time, we pretended we were fighting in the American Civil War. There wasn’t much left to the imagination from the scenes depicted in the Topps Civil War News card set. Then there was also the Hollywood fueled reenactments of epic Cowboy and Indian clashes. No matter the historical period, we had the rifles, machine guns, helmets, knives, canteens, grenades and other necessary accoutrements to vanquish the enemy whoever that might be.

medium_2972446979Topps Civil War News Trading Card, 1962

We played regularly taking turns being the ‘bad’ guys. We were killed, resurrected and played on. There was one family of five brothers whose parents’ religious convictions had them attending an evangelical church. There only stricture was no war games on Sundays. At the time, it was the only opposition I was aware of to our grade school warrior play.

About 15 years later I was back in Toronto working in the peace movement organizing short term international youth exchanges focused on volunteer activities with a social justice twist. The early 1980s was a time of demonstrations in Toronto trying to raise awareness about conflicts in Central and South America, South Africa and about militarism in our own backyard such as work being done in support of the Cruise Missile. At the time I was an ardent and righteous anti-war toys guy and pro ‘arms are for hugging’.

Not a lot has changed for me since then except perhaps that the certainty of black and white solutions has become more grey. I’m as passionate as ever about arms being for hugging. I’ve never bought toy guns for any of our kids and never will. Regardless the kids fabricate them with different materials – sticks, blocks, lego. Just yesterday, Noah and Nellie were scooting around the house ‘shooting’ at each other. When I gave them my one minute exposition on what guns do to people, Noah quipped, “these are pretend water guns papa”.

The war toys debate has been on for decades. Though not toys per se, these pieces of decommissioned military hardware in playgrounds are seen as birds of a feather. Here is a young David Halton on Canada’s CBC TV in December 1965 reporting on a Voice of Women campaign.

CBC Archives 1965xxxlCBC TV, December 1965 – Voice of Women Campaign

It was easier when I was a kid. I was embroiled in the moment and the ethos of the times. I loved my Daisy air rifle and my Hong Kong machine gun that made the noise and sported a facsimile flame of red plastic at the barrel tip. I don’t think I was desensitized. I would argue in fact that many of today’s video games are far more graphic and violent than anything we experienced as kids.

If an old CF-18 dropped into our neighbourhood playground tomorrow, I’d let the kids play on it. I’d also let them know what kind of machine it was. In a way, I think we’d be beating swords into ploughshares. What are your thoughts?

The British Columbia Teacher’s Federation has produced an excellent resource – War Toys to Peace Art – that you can download here.

It’s Starting to Feel a lot like Christmas – Snow Playgrounds

NORAD has the market on tracking Santa just about cornered. Kids all over the world follow St. Nick’s Christmas Eve progress online.

In just over a week, the jolly old guy will launch his sled and Christmas 2012 will be here. Kids will be dreaming of a white Christmas where climate makes it a possibility and wondering perhaps what the white stuff is really like if they live outside of the snow zones. Here in Canada’s far east we’re buffeted by Arctic and Atlantic winds at this time of year. So far they’ve only brought us a few dancing flakes that haven’t amounted to anything lasting.

3137172_a6ca8c2550Tisdall Elementary School playground, Vancouver, Canada. Photo Credit – gillicious. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The ‘It’s Starting to Feel a lot like Christmas – Snow Playgrounds’ gallery is a selection of 18 photos created by looking through 1000s of images of snowy playground posted by flickr members. Each one of these 18 tickled my fancy in some way. I hope you will get some enjoyment out of them too.

Sculpting Play – Freezing Time

I love to see joyful kids at play immortalized in public art. The frozen in time playfulness in sculpted forms can put a spring in our steps and a smile on our faces like this barefoot piggy back race.

7052421545_6960279ddd_cSingapore Botanic Gardens. Photo Credit – Choo Yut Shing. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Sifting through the flickr world of images, it seems that sculptures of playing kids are particularly popular in the United States. In the Sculpture of Play flickr gallery, public art from Bangladesh, Japan, Italy and Canada is also represented.

5635549014_f5008d4b6a_zDendermonde, Belgium. Photo credit – egonwegh. License – CC BY-NC 2.0.

I like to imagine that these posed stances are momentarily released from their immobility each time a child plays in their vicinity or an adult pauses to wistfully reminisce about days of play in years gone by.

Hats off to flickr photographers who allow others to curate and share their work. Click Sculptures of Play for the lightbox version of the gallery.

I have yet to come across any public art depicting play in my hometown of Halifax, Canada. I have been wondering though if, in communities that have commissioned art that depicts play, there is a corresponding commitment to providing public play spaces.

If you have any photos of public art depicting play, drop us a line and we’ll post to PlayGroundoloy FB.