Category Archives: High Park

A Gift for all Seasons

This Christmas season remember the priceless gift of time. It’s a surefire winner for all ages, particularly kids. At a constant exchange rate of 60 seconds per minute, it is the richest currency we have to share. For young kids parental presence in the best present that money can’t buy. This is one of those self-evident truths but I know from experience that it’s remarkably easy to lose touch and get whisked away in the hurly-burly bustle of daily life.

As a young kid growing up in the 50s and 60s, I was fortunate that my parents made time for family fun – walks in Toronto’s High Park and Edwards Gardens, trips to Niagara Falls, picnics at Bruce’s Mills. As we got older, friends were frequently invited on our adventures espousing the ‘more the merrier’ credo.

Niagara FallsNiagara Falls with Mom and Dad, circa 1960

Sunday evenings, after a busy week, we gathered around the old black and white TV to take in Walt Disney’s latest adventure. Then there was cubs, soccer, hockey, bottle drives, camping, skating and so much more. From a kid’s perspective, my folks made it all look so easy. They were always there to show us how, to support, to encourage, to comfort.

Dad and Me skating At a neighbourhood rink in Toronto circa 1965

As a young lad in Scotland, my Dad never saw skates never mind lace on a pair. This didn’t deter him from trying it out as an adult and getting proficient enough to help me get up on my wobblies and open the door to a childhood of winters filled with the fun and thrills of skating and chasing vulcanized rubber around a rink.

Now don’t get me wrong, I liked my presents under the tree too – army helmets, daisy air guns, eldon race sets, trains, dinky cars, hockey equipment and a veritable panoply of gifts through the years. These presents were an enjoyable part of my world but none of them could ever hold a candle up to my parents’ steady, unwavering and loving presence.

~Alex, & mum25Christmas morning circa 1966

A few days ago I asked our three young ones how they would like to spend their time over the holidays. It didn’t take them long to whip up a list. It warmed my heart that the activities are centered on us doing things together and embracing simple pleasures all easily attainable. Here’s a selection of what we’ll be doing:

  • play ponies with papa
  • go skating at the oval
  • go swimming
  • make cookies with maman
  • have a christmas party
  • play outside
  • watch hockey with maman
  • make puzzles
  • go sledding

We have a couple of snow activities in there which might be a bit of a stretch given the weather forecast for the next few days. We’ll do our best on that front…

Our kids are similar to kids the world over as The Other Letter, an IKEA video I came across recently illustrates.

As much as we love to spend time with our kids, we don’t see ourselves living for, or through them. We like to see it more as living with them. That means giving them the time and space to play by themselves, with each other and with friends. This gives them the opportunity to create their own adventures, their own worlds and establish the first stirrings of independence.

We consciously try not to overschedule and we encourage a bias for the outdoor world of play over the digital. Melissa Bernstein of the Melissa & Doug toy company shares some practical tips for holiday season play in this recent Huffington Post article.

Our skates are sharpened, our game playing skills are getting dusted off, an intergalactic mini sticks championship will be getting underway at the Eastern Passage Coliseum soon (aka the downstairs rec room) and we will be doing our best to give and get the most out of each 60 seconds per minute.

So let’s all check our time and unwrap it slowly – a playful presence is the greatest gift we can give…

Jamie Bell Adventure Playground Photo Shoot

Earlier this week, the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in Toronto’s High Park was partially destroyed by arson. The community is outraged and vows to rebuild. I’m sure the playground will rise again and reclaim its former magical hold on kids and adults alike.

Below are four slideshows I posted on flickr today. The shots were taken about a year ago on a cold frosty March morning. Click the text links or the photos themselves to activate the slideshows.

The Towers

The Equipment

The Etchings

The Paintings

All the best on the rebuilding.

How do we stop the Jamie Bell Playground madness?

For about a year now, I’ve been compiling media stories on vandalism and arson in playgrounds with the intent of writing about this contagion. I signed myself up for a discussion group on the topic on LinkedIn but haven’t really created the time to participate though many others have as they seek solutions to the problem.

The stories I’ve read frequently report on destructive activities in small towns. Cities are not immune but proportionately, I’ve read fewer stories about vandalized playgrounds in urban centres. This may be because these kind of stories are not covered as much by big city media. Invariably, the playgrounds involved are of the composite plastic and metal variety. For these structures, a raging fire’s superheat results in twisting metal and plastic melting into a dripping caustic goo.

On St. Patrick’s Day the senseless madness struck Toronto’s Jamie Bell Playground in the city’s beloved High Park, the downtown green space sans pareil. Here’s what it looks from a Toronto Star photo.

Source: Toronto Star. Click image to enlarge.

This one really hit home for me. On a business trip to Toronto last March, I made an early morning pre-work visit to Jamie Bell Playground just to check out one of the funkier downtownish play spaces. Though I traipsed through mud on a frosty frost morning I wasn’t disappointed. This is a Robert Leathers special on a grand scale. They can be found in communities throughout North America – customized, wooden playgrounds built with community engagement and sweat of the brow labour.

I took a lot of photos that cold March morning thinking of the day I’d get to take my kids there. It was a soft, sweet and dreamy start to a long business day.

Source: PlayGroundology. Click image to enlarge.

The now burned towers once looked like this. I’m on the road again today and only have access to these thumbnails. I’ll post a set of Jamie Bell photos to my flickr account later in the week.

It’s such a despicable act of cowardice as it confronts children with senseless destruction. More than 2,000 people have facebooked the Toronto Star story. Jamie Bell will rise again through the same community spirit that created it in the first place.

Another photo of the destruction from Torontoist.

Source: Torontoist. Click image to enlarge.

More photos from Torontoist here

Here’s PlayGroundology’s original Jamie Bell post

Let’s hope the perpetrators are caught. This kind of senseless destruction is happening in communities across the US, Canada and the UK. Charred remains are a terrible way to start a day.

Play Is

Play is love is play is love
Love is play is love is play

I’ve been reading, thinking, doing more about play over the last couple of years. With three 5 and unders in the house, we have abundant opportunity to immerse ourselves in this imaginative and boisterous world.

I have no formal education in the fields of health, psychology, or physical education, disciplines which touch on correlations between well-being and play. Like many parents, my connections with play are visceral – intuitive understanding at the gut level, physical engagement and abandon.

Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that our capacity to play is built on our experiences of moments of spontaneous playfulness. Cumulatively, these moments create a fertile ground where play can take root and flourish.

Of course, I have no scientific evidence to base this on other than smiles, laughter and happy faces. It’s more of a feeling. What I can offer into the evidentiary record is one short poem on spontaneous play.

pinkies plus eight

i kiss exquisite toes
lingering wriggles on my lips
ten perfectly sugared
dancing on their tips

i taste delicious toes
watering morsels in my mouth
ten fragrant smiling
blossoming down south

i dream laughing toes
tickling twinkles in my eyes
ten warm happy babies
for our nellie-rose surprise

Happy play moments.

Photos – Jamie Bell Adventure Playground, High Park, Toronto, Canada

In Toronto, A Kids’ Eye View

Triumphal arches of play bridge the toddlers’ and big kids’ play areas at the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in Toronto’s High Park. Vertical columns and cross beams are alive with kid’s eye view watercolours.

Click for slideshow of playground watercolours and imagine yourself nestled in the small dell encircled by woods. This is the best open air permanent exhibit I’ve seen in sometime. Enjoy.

Stay tuned for more on the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in upcoming PlayGroundology posts.