Hi there play aficianado, let me introduce myself and how I came to be writing stories and curating information and images about playgrounds and play.
My given name is Alex Smith but just recently I’ve decided to go by an alter ego – Mr. PlayGroundology. I’ve taken to this renaming for a couple of reasons. First up, Suzanna from over at Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds has been calling me that for the last little while and it has started to grow on me. Secondly, I hope it is inviting and playful and will give visitors pause for just long enough to consider clicking through the tab to see what’s inside (like you did perhaps).
Now about the playground thing, my father-in-law Raymond, three young kids in perpetual motion, a delicious 6-month parental leave and the Town of Sorel, Quebec introduced me to the playground trail in 2008. Raymond, a former PhysEd teacher knew all the best playgrounds in town and was only too happy to introduce us to them during a leisurely summer visit. We had lots of simple, squealing pleasure – fun on swings, slides and springy, climby things. It was all good to the last cry of ‘higher, higher’, or ‘catch me’….
Not only did Sorel have a lot of hang out, fun playgrounds for us but the town also listed them and provided their civic addresses on the their website. A quick check on the City of Halifax’s website showed no playground web presence. I thought a blog with photos and a Google map might have some legs and get me playing with social media. We got underway the next year and had a blast visiting playgrounds around the city. By the time that this local blog got eclipsed by PlayGroundology, we had visited and played in more than 60 of our hometown playgrounds over a period of three years.
Not even halfway through that first summer of local playground blogging, I was beginning to see that there was a whole lot more to this world of play than I had ever imagined. Those who love play love it a lot and I was quickly becoming an adult convert. It was wonderful to see people from many professional and societal backgrounds engaging in impassioned actions to promote the universal nature of play. There is a richness to discover everywhere that playing children are left to their own devices. This can be more pronounced in those spaces where adults have demonstrated empathy by taking the time, care and knowledge to create environments that lend themselves to adventure, exploration and the redefining of limits.
I wanted to learn about all those wonderful people who were designing great spaces for kids, who were encouraging communities to reconceptualize public play spaces. So in January 2010, I published my first PlayGroundology post on Tom Otterness’ Playground aka Manhattan’s Bronze Guy. I don’t really think there could have been a more apt beginning.
Five years, three hundred blog posts down the road, meet-ups with play people and good fun with my kids – it’s all a bit of an accidental dream come true. I have met fine people in Halifax, California, British Columbia, the Isle of Man, Scotland, England, Australia, New York City, Singapore and many other places. Without exception they have introduced me to new facets of the play dynamic.
These fellow play enthusiasts have also inspired me to go beyond the digital page and help create some play moments in my community. Watching kids play, making it up, creating their space triggered some very powerful emotions. It was joyful to see and hear, exhilarating to have helped make it happen.
Click through on image for visual story. More on loose parts play.
I have come to the conclusion that I’m in this for the long haul. I hope some of you will join me on occasion, drop in for a story about play. Many thanks to readers for their comments and suggestions. I am always open to guest bloggers, writers and photographers.
Before discovering this play vocation, I tried my hand at a number of things – an accidental farm labourer, glass factory box maker, a canada world youther, bilingual dishwasher, historic log church site refurbisher, demolition labourer, steward for the captain of an icebreaker, street theatre player, peace movement youth exchange coordinator, daycare and elementary school teacher, film festival publicist, unilingual dishwasher, proofreader, freelance broadcaster and writer, church and house painter, paper boy, tree planter, untested and unrequited poet, insulation installer, arts and culture administrator, weather data for broadcast seeker, technical translator, mopper of decks and cleaner of heads, built heritage researcher, conference centre cleaning and cooking staffer, national association communications director, federal and provincial public servant, night watchman in a small town park/playground.