Une bonne idée – A good idea

Ed’s note – This post is from my second blog – Ta daaa – 180 Days of Magic written ten years ago during a six-month parental leave. I stumbled across it tonight as I was doing some digital dusting.

It struck me that ‘good ideas’  are frequently the raw ingredients that kids bring to independent play. Granted a few bad ideas slip through on occasion but it’s the good ones that have legs and get passed on.

In all, I was fortunate enough to take two parental leaves. They were by far and away the greatest gifts I ever received from my employer. I hope you enjoy this little riff. If you are a parent, a caregiver, a playworker, an educator you are undoubtedly familiar with the joyful abundance of kid-generated good ideas.

Apparently I was numerically challenged when this was written as I am counting four not five examples of good ideas…..


Une bonne idée – a good idea – appeared on the scene within the last 3 weeks. It’s an expression that has become quite au courant in our household. Noah-David has generated sufficient bonnes idées within the last couple of weeks to single-handedly fuel several editions of the Nobel prizes.

Frequently, the good ideas being churned out of our son’s playful idea factory are qualified by one, or multiple “verys”. This is quite useful in helping to determine Noah’s doggedness and tenacity as a young creator in pursuing said bonnes ideés. Like elsewhere in life ideas come and go but usually the very, very, very, very good ones are here to stay.

These good ideas speak to a pick up in tempo in Noah’s cognitive abilities. Language acquisition is accelerating again much as I wrote about last August in “Frog’s Out of the Box – Random Passages”. Now the building blocks are small sentences and the architecture is becoming simultaneously more solid and complex, exploring and creating more frequently in the conceptual world.

The good ideas come in 2 broad and sometimes linked categories. The first consists of those ideas that require maman, or papa to play with, or set up play for, Noah-David – bubbles for instance are always a good idea.

The second category is ideas as a bridging mechanism – a means to move from an undesirable situation to one that is more palatable. Examples would include “good ideas” that would be instrumental in delaying nap or bedtime or getting dismissed from the dinner table without having finished the meal. These ideas generally present an alternate, substitute activity and often are not quite as brilliant as our young Einstein may have thought.

June 7 – First Five Good Ideas (posted as they’re presented to us)

  1. At 9h30 this morning the good idea was to have papa and maman drive papa’s 17-year-old daughter to work but beforehand to take out his dumptruck and some other favourite toys. He would stay behind to look after Nellie. This was an alternative to him accompanying papa for the drive.
  2. Just before lunch Noah-David got a little pee spot on the front of his pants. Instead of clothes change his good idea was to lie on the home office’s carpeted floor in a pool of sunshine to dry the wet spot and then head outside again to play.
  3. Early evening out in the backyard the good idea is, a ball for Noah, a ball for me – we sit up on the upper deck and roll the balls down the ramp to the lower deck. The ball that goes the farthest wins.
  4. Just a bit later than the previous good idea. This time we hide and scare maman and Nellie-Rose when they come back from the groceries. We make our hideout crouched down behind one end of the front porch and lazily watch the world go by on the street. A good idea indeed but we were unable to maintain the element of surprise as it kind of leaked out in a constant, barely muffled belly jiggle giggle as soon as maman shut the car door.

The ultimate affirmation from Noah indicating we have a meeting of the minds is when he looks up at me with his beautiful, brown eyes and says in either a confidential, or an excited tone, depending on the occasion – papa, c’est une très bonne idée. I affirm Noah a lot in his presentation of good ideas just as my parents did with me. Good ideas are an exciting development for our lad and although their frequency may vary over the years, it’s great to know they’re here to stay.

Postscript – Noah continues to have ‘good ideas’ at a very respectable pace – they’re related to sports, adventure, discovery, building self-made structures and sometimes even, school.

From the PlayGroundology post, Fort Summer


The Big Kids Bring Play to Davos

This week in Davos, four global corporate players – The LEGO Foundation, Unilever, IKEA Group and the National Geographic Society – launched ‘The Real Play Coalition’. As founding members, the respective CEOs are committed, “to create a movement that prioritises the importance of play as not only something that lets kids be kids, but as something that sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning.”

Source: World Economic Forum (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Each of these organizations has established its bona fides in relation to bringing a kidscentric lens to their corporate social responsibility. Collectively, The Real Play Coalition has the profile, the reach and arguably the capacity to up the ante by bringing heightened visibility and awareness to play as a public policy issue. A collaborative push that injects financial resources into research, strategies and activities will hopefully lead to outcomes that will make a difference for kids.

Newly arrived IDP children play at the IDP centre in Los Altos de Cazuca, outside Bogota. Photo credit – UNCHR.

This scenario is cause for quiet celebration. There has been a steady erosion of independent play, mobility and unprogrammed time for kids over the last two or three decades in many parts of the northern hemisphere.  In recent years a renaissance of play seems to be taking hold where risk is not demonized and resilience is embraced. This nascent movement is not founded in a nostalgic throwback to the past but in a deeply rooted belief that play is integral to our well-being informing the social, creative, physical, spiritual and cognitive dimensions of our life journey well beyond childhood.

One of the tiles by Québecois artist Gérard Dansereau on a path in Montréal’s Salamander Playground that celebrates the Conventions on the Right of the Child

The challenges facing children and families in low-income countries are of an entirely different magnitude. Endemic health problems, political turmoil and armed conflict frequently eclipse concerns about children at play. Nevertheless these kids also have a need and, more importantly, a right to play as recognized by Article 31 of the Conventions of the Right of the Child.

The world is a big place and the Coalition’s desired reach is global in scope.   What an opportunity to mobilize goodwill, to learn from different cultural traditions and to act with conviction and humility in the service of children. Success will come in part through an unwavering focus on inclusiveness, diversity and accessibility.

I say bravo to John, Paul, Jesper and Gary for embarking on this ‘good work’ and encourage other captains of industry to follow suit. Some may not think the corporate motives are purely altruistic – be that as it may.  I do believe the desire and the commitment are authentic and that kids will benefit from this remarkable gesture that invests in them.

Coalition members’ previous experience working with children in various parts of the world, a collaborative approach and access to top creative teams augur well for awareness, action and achievement of goals.

Play Lab, a model for integrating learning through play into the lives of young children in Uganda, Tanzania and Bangladesh with LEGO Foundation and other partners (2015)

Who can forget the powerful, disturbing and moving video on time spent outdoors produced by Persil UK, a member of the Unilever group.

There are so many groups that could benefit from some support to continue their good work in play. I think of the Mmofra Foundation in Accra, Ghana, of Think Playgrounds in Hanoi, Vietnam, of Basurama from Spain and active on four continents and Pop-Up Adventure Play and Glamis Adventure Playground in the UK.

What about the researchers, foundations, national and international organizations – Tim Gill (UK), Mariana Brussoni (Canada), Brendon Hyndman (Australia), The Lawson Foundation (Canada), Play Scotland and the International Play Association.

As a parent and father of five kids who has been writing and curating about play for eight years and organizing public events, I would love the opportunity to contribute to the Coalition in some capacity. I’m sure I’m not alone.

I hope that it’s a big tent getting pitched that many can play in – inclusive, not institutional, aspirational and pragmatic, business like yet full of heart and compassion.

I’m looking forward to see how it all develops and helps kids get their play on.


Reeling through the Years II – Somewhere over the Rainbow

Thanks to PlayGroundology’s 500+ subscribers and readers from over 140 countries, the blog has clocked nearly 600,000 page views since January 2010. I had no idea at the outset how it would all play out. It’s a great ongoing adventure and journey of discovery.

This hobby, morphed into an unpaid vocation of sorts, has opened so many doors. I meet play ambassadors from around the world and hear from readers on how they are inspired by specific posts. Most of these encounters take place online but it’s been a real treat to meet some folks in person in Glasgow, Toronto, San Diego and right here at home in Halifax.

There are just so many inspiring stories about play and kids. There is also a lot of important advocacy work to be done to ensure all kids have an opportunity to play. As PlayGroundology gears up for its ninth year, we’ll be sharing some of our milestone stories with you throughout the month of January. I hope you enjoy this second installment.

Kids at Play – flickr Photo Gallery – July 29, 2011

Flickr is a great source of visuals for play. This is one of the earlier flickr galleries I put together. There have been over 2,000 views but I think the quality of the photos of kids from around the world playing is very evocative and well worth a look. Let me know what you think if you click on through.

All told I’ve curated 35 galleries. Among them is Swedish Aesthetic which was picked up and promoted by the flickr blog. There is really nothing quite as marvellous as a fine shot of a kid at play.

The Playground Paradise Principle – Malmö, Sweden – February 6, 2012

It’s not everyday that you’re going to see a rainbow slide. Truly they should be de rigueur wherever small kids gather. This Swedish city has embraced the value of play and has become a bit of a destination for families from other parts of the continent. The municipal government even offers study tours of their play spaces that also includes pitches for the locally invented puckelball.

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.

So if anyone ever has spare airline tickets to Malmö don’t forget to give me call. Copenhagen would be fine too, I’d just take a drive across the Oresund bridge…

Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning – May 6, 2012

British education reformer Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalks have racked up millions of views. He is a great storyteller who is passionate about his subject matter and audience. I was lucky enough to see him in person at an event in Halifax several years back and used it as an opportunity to reach out and ask about play.

There are three key terms when we come to think about play. The first is imagination, the second is creativity and the third is innovation.

Sir Ken warmed to the play topic and waxed on for about 5 minutes which you can read about here.

The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging – June 28, 2012

When was the last time you had a swing? It’s been too long for me. I really must remedy that.

There’s something cosmic about swinging, a certain je ne sais quoi. Swings are all grace and simplicity as they trace their airy arcs. In downward sweeps there is the tickling acceleration of free fall. Then as the pendulum tracks the outer bounds of its trajectory, the weighty hand of gravity pulls down.

A couple of more installments coming your way over the coming weeks.

Reeling Through The Years

PlayGroundology’s first eight years have gone by in a flash. By the numbers, it’s over 350 posts, 500+ subscribers and closing in on 600,000 site visits from readers in over 140 countries. It appears that the blog is hitting some of the right notes in its writing about play.

This hobby, morphed into an unpaid vocation of sorts, has opened so many doors. I meet play ambassadors from around the world and hear from readers on how they are inspired by specific posts. Most of these encounters take place online but it’s been a real treat to meet some folks in person in Glasgow, Toronto, San Diego and right here at home in Halifax.

There are just so many inspiring stories about play and kids. There is also a lot of important advocacy work to be done to ensure all kids have an opportunity to play. As PlayGroundology gears up for its ninth year, we’ll be sharing some of our milestone stories with you throughout the month of January. I hope you enjoy this first installment.

Manhattan’s Bronze Guy – January 15, 2010

When I first saw photos of Tom Otterness’ Playground, it made me feel like there could be a place for a blog that would look at playgrounds around the world. I remember getting encouragement from two playground blogger friends in New Jersey and California when I floated this as being the first post for a new blog. A couple of weeks later, my New Jersey friend went and checked it out…

This particular piece of sculptural art cum play is representative of exciting, out of the box work that is taking place in pockets in a variety of locations around the globe. One of the most striking aspects for me about this piece, aside from the sticker price, is the scale – wow!!

Tom Otterness was a great interview – open and very giving. I’ve found this to be the case with all the play people I’ve interviewed. He was also my introduction to the symbiotic relationship between art and play, a correlation that can produce powerfully fun elixirs for kids. If you look at the body of Tom’s work, there is a notable playful quality. Following Playground he created Big Girl.

Click Manhattan’s Bronze Guy to read PlayGroundology’s first post.

Go Tell It On The Mountain Montreal’s Salamander Playground – August 21 2010

This day brings back so many memories – mostly sweet but one that was a little scary and still gives me the chills. It was the first PlayGroundology road trip from my son Noah and I.

We were hanging out in Sorel, Quebec with my in-laws and went for a day trip into the city to check this new spot on the Mountain. It was HOT and we did a lot of running around. At four-years-old, Noah had great reserves of energy. After he put the ‘his size’ play stuff through its paces and scampered about the water fountain (that’s our lad in the tie-die shirt in the video near the end of the Go Tell It On The Mountain post), we went down to street level to a weekly drumming event.

Noah got a little African drum and let the beat course through him. But it was too much, he got too hot and was sick on the way back to the car. I was afraid.

Everything turned out fine. We listened to the World Cup final as we got closer to Sorel. Salamander Playground was a great spot to spend the afternoon, a lot of European sensibilities in the equipment – a first time seeing this type of installation for me. Also not to miss here is Georges Dansereau’s tiled art work in celebration of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (photos).

Click Go Tell It On The Mountain Montreal’s Salamander Playground.

In Montreal The Swings Are Alive With The Sound Of Music – May 11, 2011

Yes, there is a bit of a love affair with Montreal. We do like to visit Mélanie’s home and I like to get into the city to see friends and check out play stuff. It is a playful city for kids and adults alike. Montreal playground trivia – every playground has at least one water fountain – brilliant!

These musical swings created a sensation in Montreal and across the internet. The idea has now been exported to the US and with any luck just might come to a city near you. I’m hoping that Halifax might sign on – what a beautiful installation for our downtown waterfront. It’s been a hit year after year in Montreal. Sadly the installation has never coincided with one of our visits. Thanks to one of my dearest friends Moussa for flagging this to me back in 2011, the inaugural year which we missed by just a few days!!

Bravo to Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat who created these tuneful swings that make music together and have created smile moments for so many…

Click In Montreal The Swings Are Alive With The Sound Of Music.

Seven Up! Meets Adventure Playground – November 26, 2011

This is the post from this quartet that I’m tempted to say the most about but will say the least. Take a peek to view the video from Seven Up! It is a clip from the introductory episode from 1964 of this acclaimed documentary and brings the kids together at an Adventure Playground in London at the same time period as this Donne Buck photo taken at Notting Hill Adventure Playground. At 15,000+ views, it’s the most popular video that PlayGroundology has posted.

Out of all the poking about I’ve done into this world of play, it’s adventure playgrounds that really bring the glimmer to my eye. I have yet to actually visit one, with the exception of Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Glasgow that was in development when I got a tour by Assemble a couple of years back.

Click Seven Up! Meets Adventure Playground.

Four blasts from the past – two items for my bucket list, Montreal’s musical swings and a full functioning adventure playground visit.

Play Words from Canadian Press

On occasion, I get contacted by members of the press interested in reporting on some aspect of play. It’s always an exciting opportunity to contribute to a broader public conversation.

As a matter of course, I do my homework, prepare background info, offer other contacts and, whenever possible, provide some insights related to the particular perspective the journalist is researching. Back in the day when I was a freelancer for daily newspapers and CBC Radio, one of the biggest recurring challenges I encountered was paring down information-loaded interviews from several sources into the story to be filed.

Hats off to Canadian Press journalist Linda Givetash who filed a story that has appeared in media outlets across the country. You can read her piece, which speaks to the changing face of playscapes in Canadian cities, by clicking here or on the image below.

Thanks to Canadian Architect, the article got some additional play online including the Twitterverse ⚡️

How does the media in your community, or country report on play? Do the articles they write, or broadcast help further the public conversation?

In 2018, here’s toasting to increased media interest in issues related to play, childhood health, development and safety and the linkages between risk and resilience.

Photo – Grandpapa Raymond’s old school – Sorel, Québec.

Twitter Moment photo of plane and control tower in Toronto’s Downsview Park sourced from Earthscape.

Urban Play Space

There’s a place in the centre of Ottawa that just screams play to me. It’s like an invitation to make believe, to climb, jump, lounge and generally have fun.

It’s not designated as a play space but does that really matter? There is a truly inside out aesthetic going on here with what is in fact a public art installation. Let’s not forget that public art frequently doubles as venues for kids to have some fun – to whit hometown Halifax’s The Wave….

Here in Canada’s capital, in a downtown pedestrian courtyard The Living Room by UrbanKeios livens up the sight and the smile lines within a quadrant of government buildings.

Over the years, I’ve dropped by to revel in the lightness, the levity of the piece in these oh so official and serious environs. There are law courts and offices for the City of Ottawa, who commissioned the work, and less than ten minutes away on foot are Canada’s Parliament buildings.

Now I wouldn’t necessarily put this small green space surrounded by brick and mortar and located on top of an underground parking garage in the category of a destination play place. But it is a bit of an oasis, a space that is worth a pause on a walking route and a few moments for young ones to run around and amuse themselves within this incongruous setting. What great opportunities for boys and girls to play house in the great outdoors.

I still enjoy strolling over when I’m in Ottawa. Over the years, I’ve walked through the door, reclined in the chairs, looked out the window and tried in vain to tune in a channel on the industrial looking vintage TV. It’s like a theatre set and takes me back several decades to an Ionesco play I appeared in – Jacques ou La Soumission – L’avenir est dans les œufs. It’s just the kind of farfelu that I like.

In all my visits though, I have yet to see kids playing here. I know they must – our timing has just not coincided. Let’s hear it for public spaces that unintentionally lend themselves to play, a wonderful happenstance! If you have similar examples in your community, drop a line to PlayGroundology we’d love to hear from you…

High and Dry – No Anchor Required

A lazy wash of waves runs up and down the beach. Colliding rocks tumble from water’s push and pull, their rattling sound like a soft whisper. Sprays of seaweed are drying in the sun – white, brown and yellow. Other treasures are awaiting discovery – sand dollars with their elliptical etchings, whitewashed shells and driftwood sculpted by the sea.

We are alone on the shore walking unhurriedly with no real destination. A breeze from the Gulf of St. Lawrence whisks up sand flurries that dance briefly across the ground’s surface. The kids are in their element skirting the water, toes in, toes out, fingers, digging in packed sand, prying out shimmery rocks. A wooden, sea-cured pole measuring nearly eight feet in length catches their attention. It’s enlisted as an accessory that they drag behind them tracing a sinuous line recording their progress.

Up ahead along the curve of Shallow Bay in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, a form is taking shape. A tall pole stretches skyward with other bits of wood scattered about its base. One of our kids gives a whoop and runs over to explore. A few steps closer and we are able to make it out. There’s a skinny mast, a well angled bowsprit thrust outward to the sea, a deck and back aft an oversized rudder. It’s a minimalist driftwood sketch of a boat that some kind souls have created, a surprise installation beckoning to the kids to jump aboard.

They each have a go at navigating the bowsprit climbing, or shinnying up the incline.

The full body extension shinny gives them the appearance of living figureheads adorning the HMS Driftwood.

The smooth, uneven spars make balancing on the deck precarious. The crew moves gingerly as they try to find their sea legs.

Is it a sloop, a pirate ship, a catamaran, a yacht? The naming of it is not important. Each child imagines his or her own world. How long will this natural piece, so in tune with its surroundings, last? Wherever we live we can benefit from more of these simple, breathtaking wonders that engage, inspire and invoke play.

Are there temporary playscapes in public spaces within your community – what do they look like, how are they used?