My family is on a grand adventure this summer, and yesterday we arrived in Bilbao, Spain. We wandered the city for less than an hour before happening upon two public playgrounds. The first was just a couple of swings, but the second…. This playground was amazing. The photo just captures a small portion of it, and the little ones’ playground is not even included here. It was a mass of climbing structures, at all angles. There were spinning features, balancing features, and gigantic nets. It immediately called to us as adults – it was so intriguing, and FUN!
This then prompted a discussion of playgrounds near us at home. They are ok. There are certainly things to climb on and swing on. But a huge, distinctive feature, was how open ended this playground was. There was no obvious way to play with it. You could swing, climb, balance – the list goes on. The various parts had so many options, and we honestly could not decipher the initial intention. Contrast this with a bridge, slide, swing, spinning wheel – these are all great, and fun, but their use is CLEAR. This Spanish playground offered limitless possibilities.
Another distinction was how safe, or unsafe, it was. Kids could fall from this. Or get stuck. It was in great condition, clean, and well kept, but it was not fool proof. The playgrounds around America are being designed in such a way as to try to prevent injuries. I can understand this. No one wants hurt kids. But the problem arises with kids themselves. They are curious and creative, and if a playground is simply too safe, they will find a way to make it dangerous. They will hang from the sides of the bridge, climb on top of the plastic houses, stack ten kids on a swingything, and climb up the poles on the swings. I observe this every day on my school playground. Kids rarely play according to the intention of the playthings, and their ideas are invariably more dangerous, and more fun.
So how about taking a page from the Spanish book, and creating a playground full of things without intentions. Creativity is necessary, and just by playing, it will be fun!