Category Archives: playground animals

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.

Playground Odysseys at Home and Abroad

It’s the last day of classes for public schools in Québec. The sun is cracking hot, an open invitation to summer fun. We have all our essential supplies – water and snacks for refueling, sun block and hats to protect us from the pounding rays.

Nellie and Noah are oblivious to the high humidity. It’s so thick and sticky it feels like you should be able to peel it off but there is no such relief. They know there is a playground adventure in the offing and that grand-papa is part of the team. They’re primed, prepped and persistent. “Are we ready yet?” Noah asks as he hops down from the breakfast table.

None too soon for the kids, we’re out the door, buckled into the car and heading off to our first destination, Parc Chalifoux. The original concept for the day was for play time at all 20 plus playgrounds in Sorel-Tracy, Québec – a marathon of fun. It’s an idea I had dreamed up the previous summer and kept alive with Noah and Nellie over the winter months.

Even though it’s all physically possible, it turns out the concept is not ready for prime time. The challenge is proper routing along with a little advanced scouting and precision timing that takes into account, snacks, naps, bathroom breaks and so on. After taking into consideration drive time between the playgrounds, I calculate that we’d have about 10 minutes per stop to let loose on the equipment.

It’s on the eve of the event that I come to terms with my lack of preparation. My loving wife who helps to bring me to my senses wonders if I have totally lost touch with reality. I’m inclined to think that it’s less fiasco and more like a temporary folly zone. While the Marathon of Playgrounds is theoretically doable, it’s not advisable with our key participants just on the cusp of three and five-years-old. Fond memories of an exciting day of playgrounding are not the likely outcome.

We radically alter the day to a 2 1/2 hour morning window with four or five playgrounds that we have not previously visited. In fact, we get to three – Parc Chalifoux, Parc Réal-Lemieux and the Parc-école au Petit Bois. Each visit is a leisurely affair exploring new spaces and equipment.

Two of the playgrounds are adjacent to soccer fields. Noah grabs his soccer ball from the car trunk and spirited games à la World Cup break out. Nellie holds her own against big brother while Raymond and I poke a foot in here and there.

Chalifoux’ miniature giraffe is as at home in the beating sun of the playground corral as she would be on the African veldt. We’ve never seen a giraffe springrider before. Nellie hopes on and has a good go at riding her under the brilliant blue sky with wispy feathers of cloud.

The kids are having a great time and I’m pretty much over my disappointment. The Playground Marathon really only had advanced billing hoopla in my own folly-stricken mind. Over the course of our stay in Sorel we’ve probably visited ten different playgrounds including today’s three. We have favourites like Parc Bibeau and Parc des Trembles. We have other old friends here too like Parc Larivière and Parc Regard-sur-le-Fleuve.

There’s been an influx of new equipment this summer. Some of the old metal stuff has been kept to share the space with the new plastic. It’s heartening to see that older equipment hasn’t been removed in toto. The caterpillar at Parc Bibeau got a new coat of paint and looks great on her perch on top of the hill. The rocking horse swings at Parc Larivière and the spider monkey bars at Parc Soleil were not as lucky. I guess they’ve been transported to that great playground junkyard in the sky.

No brand new stuff at either Chalifoux, Réal Lemieux or Petit Bois but lots of opportunities to discover equipment that they’ve never played on before while doing the swinging, climbing and sliding thing.

Our final stop of the morning is at Petit Bois. It’s a modest little playground positioned right next to the main doors of a primary school. We’re the only ones there as the kids are in class or playing out back as part of their final phys ed class of the year.

It doesn’t take long for us to run through all the equipment here – the mini-arched bridge, the slide, the stepping platforms. The kids are starting to wear down a bit from the heat too.

We hear sounds of play coming from the back of the school and can see some of the kids on a hill that overlooks the recreation space. We head over that way to see what’s happening. Raymond knows the teacher leading the game and we all get introduced.

Noah and Nellie are invited to join the game. Each of them is paired with an older kid to give them a hand. Their smiles break out as they stand up at the plate to kick the ball and round the bases in this hybrid baseball soccer game. It’s a very successful conclusion to our outing – a sporty activity playing with the big kids.

We hit three playgrounds instead of the anticipated (dreamed of) twenty-some that I had dancing around my head like quixotic windmills. We all had a great time and the kids’ endurance has been stretched just enough. Our day is a triumph of quality over quantity. At this age they’re just not ready for the kind of novelty challenge I have in mind.

Never say never however. I’m convinced that a few years from now as the kids are winding up their pre-teen days we could polish this off quite handily. Stay tuned for a post in 2018. That kind of advance should allow me ample time to iron out any planning wrinkles too…

A National Challenge of Marathon Proportions

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C. the playful minds at KaBOOM! have been busy. These folks love to raise awareness about the value of play and the important role of playgrounds within communities. They’ve raised their advocacy to an art form that’s all about doing and getting people engaged.

Their latest national challenge was inspired by one of their Facebook fans. In a nutshell, it’s nine parents and their kids, 50 playgrounds in 50 days – the Park-a-Day KaBOOM! Summer Challenge. The participants come from across the US – Maine, Florida, California, New Jersey and points in between. You can meet the contestants and read all about it here.

PlayGroundology hopes to catch up with some of the contestants as they hit the 40-day mark to get their perspectives on this playground odyssey.

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.

The Playgrounds of Flickrville

The web is wide and deep – an ever expanding repository of sound, text and light. We’re in a golden age of information sharing. On the images side of the equation, it’s a global photorush and Flickr is the motherlode. With 4 billion images and counting, this is a visual feast fit for a gourmet. It is now established as one of the primary digital meeting places for people who want to share photos and their interest in specific subject matter.

There are Flickr enthusiasts posting photos of rockets, urban gardens, landscapes, volcanoes, disasters, cars and yes, frogs. A coterie of devotees is staking out the Flickrville playground claim in the world’s largest photo gallery. Some are casual contributors simply using ‘playground’ as a tag. Others are more methodical and selective documenting, for example, the ever dwindling stock of ‘old’ playground equipment.

The Mayor of Neato Coolville is in the latter category. He has a soft spot for playgrounds. In fact, playgrounds are partially responsible for the incorporation of his on line municipality.

In the late 90s, my wife and I went back to my elementary school to take photos of the playground. It was torn down, gone. We had just driven past the previous week and it had still been there. I was distraught. The kindergarten playground was still there so we took some photos of that. It was later torn down too.

All these playgrounds are just disappearing. It’s like someone sneaks in overnight and takes them all down and removes them to somewhere, who knows where. It just opened up something in me to start taking photos of old things that were disappearing – playgrounds, signs, buildings, old movie theatres.

Mayor of Neato Coolville, aka Todd Franklin

A search for ‘playgrounds’ on everyone’s uploads returns nearly half a million hits. That’s fine for a time-is-no-object casual meander that allows poking about in a random, stumbly kind of way. Make no mistake there are wonderful compositions in this broad body of work. The riches can be refined by adding other key words to ‘playgrounds’ in the search box. The Playground Beat Gallery I curated is a small representative sample of arresting images found using the search function.

Flickr’s ‘group pools’ are an excellent entry point into zeroing in more quickly on images and photographers with a playground focus. Their content ranges from the general catch all to the somewhat esoteric.

Playgrounds Group Pool – 1,098 members, 5,124 items

This Group Pool is Flickr’s primary organized/categorized home for all stuff playground. A great place to dip your toes in.

Old Playground Furniture Group Pool – 341 members, 1,787 items

Browsing through this Group Pool you can pick up a serious case of equipment envy particularly if you’re a member of Generation X or Y. As a Boomer, I’m looking a lot of this equipment and wondering where it was when I was in the midst of my bone rattling playground days. Check the Old Playground Furniture Gallery for some representative photos.

Playground Animals Group Pool- 111 members, 650 items

Ducks, dolphins, frogs, toucans, spiders, caterpillars and even an elephant and a giraffe – it’s a full cast here in this playground menagerie. There is a large spring rider contingent, as well as roundabouts/merry go rounds, climbers, swings, slides. This pool is the Noah’s Ark of Flickrville playground collections.

Lonesome Spring Rocker Animals Group Pool – 60 members, 209 items

Tomayto – tomahto, spring rocker – spring rider. This is a smaller menagerie all spring mounted and ready to ride.

DLM (Dispositivi Ludici a Molla) Group Pool – 65 members, 534 items

DLM is the Italian equivalent of spring rockers. This Group Pool’s photos are primarily in European locations though there is some cross-over with the Lonesome Spring Rocker Animal Pool which features more North American content.

Flickr’s building block for individual photographers is the ‘set’. From my limited use of the platform, there doesn’t seem to be any methodical way to search for sets, or for ‘collections’ – sets of sets. Following are few sets that caught my interest.

Neato Coolville Municipal Playground Set – 70 photos

Mayor Todd is passionate about old playscapes. The school playgrounds in his hometown of Osage Beach, Missouri hold a lot of great, and sometimes scary, memories. “In kindergarden we all used to sit on the merry-go-round and the teacher would spin us round and round and naturally I end up falling off. So I roll underneath and I just see all these legs and feet going round and round and I can’t get up. I’m trapped and I’m screaming for the teacher to get me up, get me up. Finally she put a stop to it. I think she had a hard time hearing all my screams through the other kids’ laughter…” As a self-described accidental archivist, Mayor Todd is always on the lookout for equipment to preserve for the photographic record.

Ohio – Old Playgrounds Set – 727 photos

Scottamus’ flickr offerings are shot exclusively in Ohio. There is a great variety of material ranging from the old playgrounds to signs, abandoned schools, roadside oddities, etc. In terms of the number of images in his photostream, playgrounds appear to take the day.

Playgrounds Set – 51 photos

Amorphity comments on his Playgrounds Set shot primarily in Singapore, “I’ve always believed that supermarkets tell more about a culture than museums – looking through my image archive I am slowly thinking that the same could be true about playgrounds …” There is a lot on offer in Amorphity’s photostream particularly if you are interested in architecture.

Vintage Miracle Equipment Company Ads Set – 49 images

Nels P. Olsen has put together a retrospective of catalogue fare from the Miracle Equipment Company, from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that includes their Space Ship and Astro City. For more on Miracle click through to Tall George’s story on the Astro City Rocket Slide. Nels has also contributed numerous photos to the Old Playground Furniture Group Pool.

HDR Playgrounds Set – 44 photos

Student photographer Josh Corrie added these images shot in England last month. The high dynamic range imaging is quite arresting in tandem with the with the angles and perspectives Josh has used.

A special thanks to Todd Franklin, Mayor of Neato Coolville, for his assistance with this post. Thanks also to Amorphity and Scottamus for allowing PlayGroundology to post their photos. Lastly, a broader thanks to all those people sharing their playground photos on Flickr and other platforms.

In the course of writing this post, I came across a couple of new-to-me resources that may be of interest to more recent Flickr photo miners like myself.


    • is an excellent tool for viewing photos in a continuous stream. This web-based viewer for Flickr searches by photos, groups, users, tags and places.


Flickr Hive Mind is a search engine as well as an experiment in the power of Folksonomies. All thumbnail images come directly from Flickr, none are stored on Flickr Hive Mind.

The final word goes to Todd Franklin, Mayor of Neato Coolville.

“What’s cool about the playground when you’re a kid is all the crazy stories. We talked about Gene Simmons of KISS having a cow’s tongue sewn onto his own – silly rumours. For kids, the playground was equivalent to the adults’ water cooler at work.” Give me a playground any day…

Note – the number of members and photos referenced in association with Group Pools and Sets was accurate on the day of publishing. These numbers are constantly in flux.

Photo credits in order of appearance.

1. Neato Coolville

2. Scottamus

3. Scottamus

4. Neato Coolville

5. Amorphity

6. Neato Coolville

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.