Submitted by Stephen Plunkard, principal (Calgary, AB)
|Example "adventure playground" (from Web Urbanist)|
I grew up in three countries - in densely urban areas, fringe cities and suburban areas. Wherever I lived my friends (boys and girls) and I would seek out wild areas to explore on both private and public lands. While never officially stated, I think we would seek out areas that were secluded with ready access to a dump or place that had scrap building materials. Finding an area close to a project under construction had some obvious benefits too. Our premium sites would be conducive to having fires and/or have access to a stream (fish, beavers, tadpoles, frogs, snakes, etc.). Thinking back some of the building materials might have actually been stolen. If another group of boys and girls were building another settlement nearby we would often create flags a variety of signs and other symbols that would clearly brand our operation.
Glamis Adventure Playground (courtesy of
As I thought more about spaces for children in the urban wild, I reached out to former Louisiana State University professor Max Conrad, and he reminded me of the concept of “Adventure Playgrounds,” which was first formally introduced in the early 20th century. Doing a bit of research on the web, I learned that C. Th. Sørensen, a Danish landscape architect, noticed that children preferred to play everywhere but in the playgrounds that he built. He came up with a concept of essentially creating junk yards for kids to play in, from which the “adventure playground” movement was born.
The first adventure playground opened in Denmark in 1943, and the idea quickly spread into other parts of Europe. While today there are over 1,000 adventure playground across Europe and many in Japan, funding, land ownership, and liability issues have thwarted the spread of the idea across the US, where only three still exist, both in California.
|The little adventurer, Stephen Plunkard|
As a young school boy growing up in England, building my little settlements, I had no idea that I was actually part of a worldwide movement. Perhaps I should rejoin!