Category Archives: playground

Round and Round and Round

When my twenty-something daughter was a wee girl, we’d walk hand in hand a few blocks up the street to a small park. The summer sky’s frolicking blue and whispery wisps of cloud were an invitation to the outdoors. The expanse of grass was always a marvelous shade of green speckled with bursts of dandelion and splashes of clover. It was a small patch of play, in a small city, along a small strip of harbour nestled away from the vast ocean’s curling waves.

CurlingWavesPhoto credit – Alexa Cude. Atlantic waves

Invariably on each visit, over a period of several months, we reenacted that children’s classic, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I was typecast as the troll. My daughter, with nary a missed beat, took on the the role of each of the Goats Gruff in succession with a flourish that only a four-year-old could muster.

There was a perfect little arched bridge leading from one slide platform to another. As the Goats Gruff trip-trapped over the bridge, I would lunge out with a troll-like cry inflected with just the right amount of fright to challenge the saucy Goats Gruff who dared to cross my little stream. Billy Goat Gruff the elder and his trip-trapping, troll trawling ways were always a great canvas for giggles, running and laughter.

3740887053_279d02e05f_o.jpgPhoto credit – Christopher Charles. Three Billy Goats Gruff. License – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The neighbourhood playground was also a great spot for getting up close and personal with the dirt, throwing stones, picking flowery weeds, chasing butterflies – all those priceless activities whose only subscription fee is time. There were many fine moments for us at Halifax’s Ardmore Park and the most rollicking was certainly the tire swing.

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Round and round and round we go
Where we stop nobody knows
Round and round on the tire swing
High in sky like a bird on the wing

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Not a million seller this ditty of a tune that’s for sure. It made my daughter and I feel rich beyond compare though as I propelled her through the air with great centrifugal force on an elliptical dipping and dropping trajectory – ‘high in the sky like a bird on a wing’.

The Unorthodox ApproachPhoto credit – Stephanie Sicore. Unorthodox approach. License – (CC BY 2.0).

This vulcanized donut suspended on three chains from a heavy duty swivel hanger was the most grueling, adrenaline-charged ride of the playground. My girl’s appetite for the round and round seemed insatiable. Sometimes when the tire came to a standstill and she unclasped her tiny little fingers from the cold chain links and slipped through the hole tippy toes to the hard-packed earth below she would be a little wobbly.

I never tired of pushing her, or singing the song. It was one of those wonderful simple, timeless pleasures. The playground was made over years ago and the tire swings removed. The song lives on with her younger siblings and will undoubtedly get an airing with her soon-to-be niece

On occasion Alexa and I still find a moment to walk hand in hand but it’s more likely to be a lunch at my office when our schedules permit. She is a wonderful photographer and if you’d like to see some of her work check out seriouslyalexa on instagram. Lots of great photos there including those two much loved scamps in her life, the fearless canine duo – Yeezy and Ace.

Horses with PapsPhoto credit – Alexa Cude. Horses with Scotland’s Paps of Jura in the background

Later today we are celebrating her birthday with a brunch before her lad whisks her away to a mystery destination. Who knows, maybe they’re headed to their local tire swing?

Happy Birthday Alexa
Love Papa

Cosby the Comic Prince Riffs on Playgrounds

Did any comic have a better ear for kids? I came across this gem today while curating content for PlayGroundology FB. From the maker of Fat Albert and so much more…

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Cosby lets loose targeting parents as the masterminds behind a playground plot to get rid of kids.

I’m on the lookout for other playground routines by comics. Drop me a line if you know of any.

A Page Out of the Play Book

PlayGroundology is keeping some fine company in the latest issue of Playground Magazine. The three column page in the mag’s ‘who’s talking about’ section has Halifax’s yours truly sharing space with Australia’s non-profit social enterprise, PlaygroundIDEAS and Denmark’s design house extraordinaire, MONSTRUM.

Playground Magazine - Spring 2014Spring 2014 issue of Playground Magazine. Click to enlarge.

Playground Magazine is published quarterly by Idaho-based Playground Professionals LLC. You can subscribe for free online by signing up here.

For readers interested in a broad range of academic perspectives on play, the American Journal of Play is also available free online. The Winter 2014 issue features interviews on the topics of storytelling, story acting and literacy, articles on deep play and the origins of playfulness and several book reviews.

American Journal of Play - Winter 2014Winter 2014 issue of American Journal of Play.

Past issues are also accessible. “The American Journal of Play is published by The Strong, a highly interactive, collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play.”

If you find yourself with a little time on your hands and no one to play with, settle in for a good read with either of these publications.

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.

PlayGroundology’s on Cloud Nine

PlayGroundology has just wrapped its third year of blogging about the world of play and playgrounds. Following are nine posts that readers found popular. If you didn’t see them first time around, I hope you’ll take a moment to sample two, or three. If you like them, share with others – play never has a best before date. Happy playing and thanks for reading PlayGroundology!

Sculpted in France – Concrete Art Playgrounds

Photo credit: J. Bruchet. Source: Architectures de cartes postales. Designer: Pierre Székely. Cité des Jeux – L’Haÿ-les-Roses, France

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for France so I’m always on the lookout for interesting play stories from that part of the world. Our family lived there in the early 70s. I was 12 when we arrived and 15 when we left. It was my gawky early adolescent phase which I like to think I’ve outgrown. (more…)

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Just Play

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Just Play

play play
whether it’s alone or with friends
within four walls or under a great canvas of sky
just play

there are not enough hours
in a heartful life
to miss kaleidoscoping fun (more…)

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The Playground Paradise Principle

Paradise might be a bit of a stretch but Malmö, Sweden is quite simply playgroundalicious. It’s the kind of place that would inspire Mary Poppins to gather her young charges around her and umbrella them off to adventure – up through the atmosphere/ up where the air is clear/ let’s all/ go to Malmö. (more…)

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London’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground Makes The New York Times Magazine

Source: Haringey Play Association. Click image to enlarge

There are four stunning, brilliant images in the March 1 edition of the The New York Times Magazine offering glimpses of children at the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground in London, England. (more…)

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A Journey of Epic Proportions

How do you spice up your morning commute to work and at the same time make it more meaningful? Look no further than my friend Chris Gregory for an answer. Chris is a champion for play at the Isle of Man’s leading children’s charity The Children’s Centre. To raise awareness for outdoor play and safe and playful routes for children, he is taking a different means of self propelled transport every workday for the month of March. His epic journey started out with a 3 kilometer spacehopper commute. Do I hear sore thighs? (more…) Note, Chris is in training for his second run at March 2 Work.

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Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa

Source: Mmofra Foundation. Click image to enlarge

Two acres of green space in the Dzorwulu neighbourhood of Accra, Ghana are being primed for transformation. It’s all about the kids, or Mmofra as they are called in Ghana’s Akan language.

This story, about a small plot of land, spans decades, continents and generations. It’s the story of a woman’s vision, of her love for children. The seeds were sown 50 years ago when the late Efua Sutherland wrote her groundbreaking book on Ghana’s play culture, Playtime in Africa. The narrative and accompanying photographs by Willis E. Bell were the first real documentation of children’s play in the newly independent African nation. (more…)

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Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning

Earlier this spring, Sir Ken (Robinson) shared his views on education with an appreciative audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia – home of PlayGroundology. I was one of the 1,000 in attendance who enjoyed an accomplished and entertaining critic of conventional wisdom about education and creativity. No props, no notes, plenty of humourous asides and always an à propos anecdote. (more…)

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Have You Heard What They’re Saying About RISK? Listen Then Share

Generally speaking, parents want their kids to experience the fullness of the world – the quiet beauty, the dizzying adventure, the discovery of self and others. As much as possible we want to keep hurt and injury at bay but they too are part of the mix with cuts, scrapes and breaks both corporeal and psychological. So how do we go about assessing risk? How do we ensure that our kids aren’t enclosed in a cocoon of safety?

I saw this video a couple of nights ago and thought I would play a small role in helping to spread the word. Right now it’s at 373 views. After you’ve watched it, please share with your friends and your broader network.

Thanks to the Alliance for Childhood and KaBOOM! for producing this piece.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging

There’s something cosmic about swinging, a certain je ne sais quoi. When I saw Teena Marie Fancey’s Baby Boy at The Craig Gallery on Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s waterfront a couple of years ago, I knew I had found a great opening image for a paean to swings. Thanks Teena. (more…)

Twelve Days of Christmas Play

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A tire swing in an oak tree

5344851996_2d6c899585_bPhoto credit – Derek Buff. License – CC BY-NC 2.0

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the third day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

Photo credit – Oliver Hammond. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

On the ninth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Ten rocks for scaling
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Eleven see-saws sawing
Ten rocks for scaling
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

Photo credit – Vaughn Hannon. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve messy mudholes
Eleven see-saws sawing
Ten rocks for scaling
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

Paris Serves Up Les Halles Playground – Terrain d’aventures

Back in the spring of 2011, I wrote a post on Paris playgrounds. MJ, one of my workmates was there and took a couple of photos for PlayGroundology. At the same time I came across an artist’s rendition of of the playground that was to be built at the redeveloped site of Les Halles.

The terrain d’aventures opened in early October this year. The video below gives a taste of the unique equipment that makes this new play space a star attraction for Parisians on downtown outings in the 1er arrondissement.

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The Mayor and his closest aides were there as well as France 3 Paris Ile-de-France TV. Unlike a playground opening earlier this week in Lisbon where there were no kids on camera, Les Halles features quite a few testing out the fun that’s packed in and parsed out over 2,500 square metres.

Les halles details

If you’re Paris bound, check here for details. The playground opens at 10 in the morning and currently kids can only play in it for 1 hour per day. The maximum capacity for the playground is 100 kids per hour. Reservations are required and entry is free.

Jardin des enfants - Mairie de Paris 1Click through on the image for a full photo gallery.

Don’t stop the fun at Les Halles. Check this list of Paris playgrounds.

All images courtesy of the Ville de Paris.

St. Kilda for Patron Saint of Playgrounds

Do I hear any votes for St. Kilda as the Patron Saint of Playgrounds? It seems that Kilda has never been canonized so he/she is up for grabs. As my Down Under flub from a couple of weeks back demonstrates, there’s at least two reasons in Australia that Kilda would make a great nominee for a patronly protector.

Seeing an opportunity to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Australia’s St Kilda Adventure Playground I posted photos on the PlayGroundology blog and FB Page. The one that appears below was quite popular given the number of times it was liked, shared and commented upon.

NOT the 30th anniversary St. Kilda. Photo credit – Fernando de Sousa; (CC BY-SA 2.0). Source: flickr

Little did I know however that there are two St Kilda Adventure Playgrounds in Australia. The error was kindly pointed out by the great folks at Melbourne Playgrounds and by Andrew Coulson who works with Adelaide’s local government.

Yes, that’s right, in Australia there is double the pleasure with St. Kilda – one in Melbourne and one in Adelaide about 750 kilometres apart, just close enough that you could hop in a car and play at both on the same day. If there is any kind soul, agency, media house, or government out there who would like to sponsor my family to take on this feat of adventurous play and report on it, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

FullSizeRender

As it turns out, both photos I used to illustrate the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Adelaide St. Kilda Adventure Playground were of the wrong playground. The only saving grace on the blog post was a YouTube video that was shot in the ‘right’ St. Kilda and a link to a pinterest board full of photos.

The mix up gave rise to another idea for PlayGroundology – Map Maker Mondays. On a couple of Mondays every month, I’ll be plotting playgrounds on Our Treasure Map and sharing the newly plotted playgrounds on the PlayGroundology FB page. St. Kilda Adventure Playground – Adelaide and St. Kilda Adventure Playground – Melbourne are the inaugural Map Maker Monday playgrounds. Join me and plot some of your own on the Our Treasure Map platform.

Here’s a photo of the real deal 30th anniversary St. Kilda Adventure Playground in Adelaide. Apologies for any confusion caused by my earlier errors in identification.

There is a ruggedness that runs through these two adventure playgrounds. That’s somehow fitting as their shared name migrated to the southern hemisphere with the Scots. St. Kilda is a small archipelago at the western reaches of the Outer Hebrides.

In the 1850s, forty-two islanders emigrated to Australia. Many of the emigrants died en-route, but a few settled in Melbourne, and to this day a suburb of the city is called St Kilda – named after the schooner The Lady of St Kilda which was anchored off the shore at around this time. Source: St. Kilda

There has been no permanent human habitation there since 1930 and the islands are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

And that is my Tale of the Two Kildas with a Saint thrown in for good measure.

Cast your vote today for St. Kilda as the Patron Saint of Playgrounds….

Playground in Colonial Kowloon

It was the year Neil Armstrong debuted the original moonwalk. Get Back and Honky Tonk Woman were number one on the UK charts for six and five weeks respectively. Halfway around the world, the tail end of the sixties saw Hong Kong emerging from protests against British colonial rule.

Circa 1969, the first ever adventure playground in Hong Kong opened in Kowloon.

Source: The National Archives (United Kingdom).

It looks like it was a funky place to play.

Source: The National Archives (United Kingdom).

I’d love to hear from anyone who spent time in this playground growing up. I’m also looking for help to track down some more photos. If you have information or stories on this Kowloon adventure playground, please drop a line at playgroundology@gmail.com

My brother goofing at Victoria Park, Hong Kong.

In present day Hong Kong, the government has developed a handy online playground directory but none of them hold a candle to Kowloon 1969. It was a good year, looks like they broke the mold.

Proxy Playgrounds

Occasionally, intrepid photographers comb the planet looking for playgrounds to immortalize digitally for PlayGroundology readers. Truth is, that’s me in my Walter Mitty moments, dreaming wildly of a posse of professional playground shooters on assignment and sharing their best shots here.

In fact, what’s happening is that I am sometimes able to cajole traveling friends and family to take a few snaps for me of interesting playgrounds they happen across. These folks become my proxies taking me, and by extension those of you who tune in here, to playgrounds I have never visited before.

Near Loch Lomond, Scotland

Thanks to my septuagenarian parents, PlayGroundology has snagged some photos of Scottish, Swedish and Dutch playgrounds. The Scottish shots are in the vicinities of Loch Lomond, Strone and Inverkip, familiar places full of memories reaching back nearly 60 years for them.

I don’t remember much in the way of playgrounds when I first went Clydeside as a 5-year-old. I was a kindergarten kid at Larkfield School in Greenock for a couple of months and remember playing in the schoolyard but don’t recall any equipment.

Near Loch Lomond, Scotland

On another visit in the late ’60s, I remember a playground up behind the shops close by my granma’s place on Auchmead Rd. I also recall the most grueling ‘game’ I ever played. In the backyard of the Council houses, I had to run a gauntlet between two lines of 15 kids per line who whaled away at me with their feet, fists and knees as I ran through as quickly as I could. Following this medieval-like ordeal I did get a grudging acceptance from the local kids. It was the rite of passage for the Canadian boy on the block.

Near Loch Lomond, Scotland

For more Loch Lomond playground photos from my parents’ excellent playground adventure, check PlayGroundology FB. Addiitonal photos will be posted to PlayGroundology FaceBook over the coming days.

Before you go, take a wee listen to Runrig’s rendition of a song long associated with Scotland, Loch Lomond. It’s a tune, a place and a playground.

You may also like these posts with photos provided by friends.

In the Name of Play – On Assignment, Dateline Atlanta

Paris Playgrounds a la Carte