There's absolutely no question that our kids are growing up with some things that are way better than what we had. iPhones and DVRs are two things that come immediately to mind. And another: the simple (and free!) pleasures of the playground.
When I was growing up, playgrounds had monkey bars, some metal slides that got hot enough to fry an egg on in the summer, swings, and maybe a merry go round. Unfortunately, fear of lawsuits caused communities to get rid of many of these things (when was the last time you saw a merry-go-round?), and experts believe, took a lot of the fun out of play. Now, there's a new concept looking to restore the fun to the playground and spur creativity in the process.
Architect David Rockwell has developed "Imagination Playgrounds." They are big foam shapes that let kids create their own play environments. The first park-based one opened this week at Burling Slip in the South Street Seaport in New York City. Others, called "Imagination Playground in a Box" are popping up all over the country. These come in various permutations that can be used indoors, outdoors, and at variety of locations. As a matter of fact, KaBOOM! (a nonprofit which focuses on building playgrounds for kids and teaching communities how to get playground projects going) just brought two Imagination Playgrounds to Detroit, where I live. Each playground comes with training for a Play Associate, someone educated in the best way to use the toys.
The cool thing is, neither Rockwell nor KaBOOM! makes money from the sale of these kits. Profits are all plowed back into funding more playgrounds for kids. KaBOOM!'s goal is to have every child within walking distance of a safe playground.
Cynical urbanite that I am, I do wonder how they manage to keep these available for kids without every single piece going home with someone to whom it does not belong within about a day and half. However, the Imagination Playgrounds sound like great, multi-age fun, not to mention safer for toddlers. Mine can't be the only one who dismisses the toddler playscapes as too simple but tries to do everything his big sister can on the highest parts of the big kid ones, thus taking years off his mother's life, right?
What's your favorite playground activity?
Image via StevenDePolo/Flickr