To an adult eye, it may look chaotic and ugly. To the child, it`s just possibilities.
“The Land” creates a context where children can engage in a play on their own terms.
This kind of playground has roots in Europe. It moves away from regular safety-conscious playgrounds, encouraging kids to experiment with tools, junk, mud, hammers, fire, and anything they want.
What? What a crazy idea! That is dangerous!
Exactly… Children need a feeling of danger. They learn through experiencing the consequences of their choices. That may be difficult for parents to learn.
We tend to keep them safe all the time, but they need to learn how to manage their own risk.
This is too dangerous… I wouldn’t say dangerous. Playworkers encourage children to participate in healthy risk-taking. There are people who take care of safety during playtime. Play Workers are essential over there. They watch the children, see what interest them and then they provide it. To become a playworker you need to be well educated. In the UK you can even do a Ph.D. in Playwork.
To understand the idea more please watch a short 2-minute movie
The most famous adventure playground: “THE LAND” is located in Plas Madoc, a housing estate seven miles south of Wrexham, in North Wales. The Land is operated by the Association Of Voluntary Organisations In Wrexham (Avow) and it has been in operation since 2011, providing an open access adventure play for children and young people from five to sixteen years old. The playground is staffed by between 6 and 12 playworkers.
“ Better broken bone than broken spirit “
Lady Allen is called the mother of the adventure playground idea, The Land. She used to say
“ Better a broken bone than a broken spirit “
The Land was the subject of a documentary called The Land, directed by the American filmmaker Erin Davis, who spent a month filming there in 2012. If you still have mixed feelings I encourage you to watch a short 15 minutes documentary . If you have children it will teach you a lot.
“In half an hour this film will change everything you think you believe … In scene after natural scene the truth becomes obvious: With a little bit of creativity, empathy and guidance, children can be freed to experience a much more fun, adventurous and fulfilling childhood.”
— Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic
Think specifically about a moment that brought you joy as a child…
I remember it exactly like seeing it in a movie. Childhood for me was a time to play around with mud and anything I wanted. It was a time of diversity, creativity without limitations.
Play doesn`t need to involve expensive toys. The less complex object, the more you encourage a child to take a lead, discovering attributes of that object, that as adults we may never notice. That kind of play is most valuable for children.
Children today get a pretty rough deal. What do we give them? We give them a square playground with few pieces of mechanical equipment. Then we expect they will spend all day long on the swing. It is just not good enough. Children are bored of playing with toys that can be used only in one context.
Hundreds of adventure playgrounds exist throughout UK and Europe.
The US currently has 7:
1.Parish School Adventure Playground, Houston TX, USA
2.The Anarchy Zone, Ithaca NY, USA
3.Berkeley Marina Adventure Playground, Berkeley CA, USA
4.Mercer Island Adventure Playground, Seattle WA, USA
5.Huntington Beach Adventure Playground, H.B. California, USA
6.PlayGround Governor`s Island NY
7.Eureka Villa Val Verde CA
What I learned:
- Pay attention to what interests them and provide it.
- Sometimes as you look at your child and want to say: Don`t do it! Bite your tongue and wait to see a result. You just gave them a possibility to grow.
- Organize a lot of various engaging activities
- Trust your children. Beyond doubt, they will be grateful.
- Empty a garage. Let kids play with some treasures, you wanted to throw away.
ERIN DAVIS, DIRECTOR
Erin Davis is an artist, filmmaker, radio producer and educator living in Vermont, USA. To support her documentary habit, Erin teaches courses in radio documentary at Middlebury College. Her favorite game is the catch.