Category Archives: PlaygroundIDEAS

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.

Hearts of Play

In both religious and secular celebrations, giving, goodwill and peace are Christmas mainstays. For kids it’s an incredible time, a wondrous dance of merry magic dream makers feverishly anticipating the arrival of Père Nöel, Sinterklaas, or Old Saint Nick. The air is infused with hope, friendship and play.

Beyond our own homes and communities, out there in the wider world, there are those who on a daily basis act with hearts of play. My thoughts gravitate to these Pax Ludo envoys at this time of year because their mission – helping kids to explore and experience the joys of play – is so closely aligned with Santa’s selfless journey of giving.

If you are looking for a good cause to embrace, consider for a moment one of these fine organizations in Hearts of Play (click through for version with full notes).

Enjoy this time for reflection, giving thanks, and family.

NEWSFLASH, this just in – PlayGroundology’s first Haiku Deck, The Book of Play has received a ‘hai 5’ and is in the running for best Haiku Deck in the Pure Wow category. Check it out, VOTE for PLAY and share it with the hashtag #hdbestof2013.

Hats off to Haiku Deck who make storytelling a breeze. Cheers

PlaygroundIDEAS – Habitats for Play

Let’s make a rolling wave of applause as PlaygroundIDEAS launches its 150 Days of Play campaign to celebrate providing 150 high quality, low cost playground designs in an open source catalogue. Each day for the next 150 days they will feature a design a day from the design library on the Playground Ideas blog along with examples of how they have been used around the world.


Even though I’m an early riser and start writing in the small hours of the morning, Marcus and the crowd at PlaygroundIDEAS’ Melbourne, Australia home base have got us beat. They’re more than half a day ahead.

As I pen this draft they’re just about ready to grab some Monday lunch. Their news about the 150 free designs (up from 80 one year ago) has been rippling around the world for hours at the speed of play. As I finally push ‘publish’ around 6 Monday morning, supper will be long done in Melbourne.

If you’re not familiar with this international not-for-profit, you’re in for a treat. I immediately fell in love with PlaygroundIDEAS when I first stumbled across them online shortly after getting PlayGroundology up and running.

CDC pan 5

They’re distinctive for a variety of reasons not least of which is how the work they do helps light up the faces of disadvantaged kids in communities in Asia, South America and Africa. Then of course, there is the inventiveness and simplicity of the playgrounds and individual play elements in and of themselves, a cross between tire recycling heaven and adventure playgrounds.

hway ka loak pan

There is also a great grassroots beat coursing through the work that PlaygroundIDEAS is doing with, and on behalf of, kids and play. I heard this firsthand when I interviewed founder and CEO Marcus Veerman a couple of years ago just as he was preparing for one of his first trips to East Africa. With the assistance of international volunteers and funders they help communities and schools make dedicated space for play a reality.

One of their more recent projects involves a playscape for a school in Kenya. A multi station obstacle course is very popular with the kids.


“…the playground is a motivation for kids to come to school, in fact it becomes very hard to get them out of school in the evenings after classes because they want to remain behind and play.”


The scope of the Ruben Centre project in Nairobi is huge and includes football fields, the obstacle course, a geodesic dome made from scrap pipe, a giant see-saw airplane and more. Click through for the story of this primary school with 2,000 kids that now has a rockin’ playground.

Another outstanding characteristic of PlaygroundIDEAS is its use of technology. For the playgrounds and play elements much of the source material is recycled (think tires) and locally available. The building technology is scaled to the environment, primarily people powered and does not rely on large machinery. Then there is the savvy tech use of the interweb to share stories, photos and designs, to build community, recruit volunteers and attract funders.

It’s a pretty complete package. If I could pack up the family tomorrow to volunteer on a build somewhere in this wide world, I’d be looking to Marcus and PlaygroundIDEAS to point me in the right direction.


As part of the 150 Days of Play celebration, PlaygroundIDEAS is hosting two design competitions for creating new elements for the library, one for kid designers and one for adults. Stay tuned to the PlaygroundIDEAS blog for details.

Thanks to Marcus, Elizabeth, the rest of the gang at PlaygroundIDEAS HQ, all the volunteers and funders for making a difference and helping to make the world a better place for kids.

Today is World Habitat Day, celebrated the first Monday in October since 1986. UN Habitat tags it ‘For A Better Urban Future’. Every human habitat should make provision for children’s play. What a great day for PlaygroundIDEAS to launch 150 Days of Play. Listen for the laughter, look for the smiles and you’ll know kids are playing.

All photos and images sourced from PlaygroundIDEAS.

Giving the Gift of Play

Gift of Play

Any time of the year is a good time for giving. But if this season speaks to you in a special way, consider giving the gift of play.

There are organizations around the world that help make play possible for kids. Here are a few whose work is both compelling and inspiring.

Northern Starfish (Canada)

In Canada, a barely into his teens Wes Prankard is working hard to make a difference. Northern Starfish, an organization he created, is working with First Nations communities across the country. His first engagement involved raising funds to build a playground in Attawapsikat, in northern Ontario. Three years later, playgrounds continue to be an important focus of the organization’s work as he explains here to the Assembly of First Nations.

Recently, Wes carted over 1,000,000,000 pennies he raised to a bank in his hometown as part of a campaign to the build 20 playgrounds across the Canada’s north. Click here if you would like to give Northern Starfish a hand.

Playground Builders (Canada)

From his base in British Columbia, Keith Reynolds and Playground Builders have built 116 playgrounds since 2007 in The Palestinian Territories, Afghanistan and other war-torn areas of the world. Keith gives a first hand account of the organization’s work in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation national news interview.

Playground Builders is a registered charitable organization in Canada. The organization has both a Canadian and US foundation. Click through here if you are interested in supporting their work.

Playground IDEAS (Australia)

Marcus Veerman had an idea about kids, play and community empowerment. From his base in Australia, Playground IDEAS has worked and played with communities and kids throughout Asia, Africa and South America using indigenous and recycled materials to create colourful engaging playspaces. Just watch here and you’ll see what I mean.

Click here if you want to help Playground IDEAS build a “world of intelligent, happy, resilient children prepared to take on the complex challenges of the future”.

Empower Playgrounds (USA and Ghana)

Ben Markham and his team at Empower Playgrounds tag their work as lighting the world through recess. Markham is a retired ExxonMobil executive now bringing his talents to bear in Ghana, West Africa. Kids at play becomes energy that lights homes and schools.

Click through here for information on how to support the work of Empower Playgrounds.

East African Playgrounds (UK and Uganda)

East African Playgrounds was founded by two Leeds University students, Tom Gill and Carla Powell, in 2009. Volunteers have built playgrounds primarily in Uganda and Kenya. Here is the story of one of their early builds.

As far I have been able to determine, they are the only playground group who have had someone pledge to fundraise for them by doing handstands 365 days of the year. Julie Dumont has been on a handstandathon this year in a variety of venues. You can see some of them here in this article from The Telegraph.

Click through here for more on helping to support the work of East African Playgrounds.

This is just a small sample of of people and organizations doing good work in support of play. In communities throughout the world there are local activities and builds taking place that frequently are in need of financial or volunteer support. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. A newish kid on the block is crowdfunding as this item from BBC News London explores.

Remember anytime is a good time to give the gift of play. Merry Christmas from Halifax, Canada.

The Gift of Play

We’re in the midst of the giving season and there are always choices to make. If you’re thinking about an alternative gift this year why not consider the gift of play?

Community fundraising is frequently an important component of securing overall project costs for new playgrounds and upgrades. Check to see if there is a build, or a community group preparing for one where you live. A few dollars, or maybe an extra pair of hands are sure to be appreciated.

Beyond local activity in your own town, there are numerous organizations that promote and advocate for play. They do educational work, research, outreach and some do actual playground builds. Many of these groups have charitable status and I think it’s safe to say that none of them are really flush with cash.

One thing that these play related groups have in common is dedicated and passionate staff and a cadre of volunteers that help them achieve their goals. I’m thinking of organizations like KaBOOM!, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, Playworks and numerous others that I’m not familiar with. They are all doing great work.

One group that jumped out for me is PlaygroundIDEAS. They were the subject of a Screenshot Monday back in June when I wrote:

“What I immediately enjoyed at PlaygroundIDEAS was the sense of resourcefulness that informs their approach to do-it-yourself playgrounds. There is hope here too and dreams – just look at the wonderful iconography of a child swinging from a shade bearing cloud. Playground Ideas works with a clientele that is far too populous.

We design and build great playspaces to improve the education, wellbeing, and safety of the world’s most disadvantaged children – and we support and train others to do the same.

Registering on the site provides access to more material such as the Playground Manual and the design section. It also enables readers to contribute content of their own. The registration process is quick and painless.”

One of the reasons that I’m attracted to PlaygroundIDEAS is linked to fleeting experiences of my own in the developing world. Nearly 35 years ago, I was a participant in Canada World Youth, an international exchange program funded by the Canadian government. I spent five months in three different communities in Sénégal, West Africa.

Sénégal was a revelation for us Canadian kids, most of us still in our teens. I was adopted by toddlers in each of the three places we lived. In Suelle, Casamance there was Abou, in Dakar it was Dabba and in Louga, Siouadou. Although a couple of these kids lacked material possessions, none lacked the desire, or ability to play. So why not playgrounds for kids in the developing world…

Read more about giving the gift of play here. While you’re at it, treat yourself to this rendition of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Happy holidays and happy giving to whoever it may be.