Playgrounds Worth A Trip

Playgrounds Worth A Trip

In honor of our family themed July/August issue, we've invited guest writer Paige Johnson, who spearheads the blog Playscapes, to share her perspective on some of the most innovative contemporary design targeted to kids. Week 2: Playgrounds Worth A Trip. What if you planned your next family vacation around a playground? Some playscapes are so amazing they're worth the trip! Stay close by, and take in other area sites while building in time to visiting these unique landscapes for play again and again.

Click here for Week 1: An Introduction to Modern Playscapes.

Parque Gulliver in Valencia, Spain, is a monumental play sculpture depicting the moment that Gulliver is captured by the Lilliputians. His legs and arms are stairs, his waistcoat and hair are giant slides, his sleeves are caves, and the ropes that tie him down become climbers for your own Lilliputs. The base of his hat thoughtfully provides a place for tired parents to rest in the shade.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


A couple more views of the park.

The "Adventure Playground" was born out of the bomb sites of WWII when architect Theodor Sorenson noticed children happily making their own playscapes out of rubble while ignoring traditional playgrounds that had been built to entertain them. The drive toward providing spaces in which children could build and experiment on their own became a whole movement in Europe, where over 1000 Adventure Playgrounds still exist. But the concept never caught on the United States, and the Berkeley and Huntington Beach, California, Adventure Playgrounds are now the only sites in America devoted to this uniquely child-centered play concept.

Photo by Susan Solomon.

The standard kit of Adventure playgrounds is an assembly of recycled scraps—tires, boards, paint—which the children are allowed to manipulate as they wish, using simple tools. There is usually sand, water, and mud play, and some adventure playgrounds also incorporate small animal husbandry and cooking over an open fire or in an outdoor oven. Adventure Playgrounds also employ adult playworkers dedicated to ensuring the safety of the children without getting in the way, and studies show that accident rates at Adventure Playgrounds are actually lower than those at conventional playgrounds. Fastidious Parent Alert: expect your kids to get dirty here!

Photo by Susan Solomon

"Puckelball" is a variant of soccer played on a field that looks like it was attacked by giant moles with a goal designed by the Mad Hatter. Its creator, artist Johan Strom, thinks of it as a metaphor for life:

"Many live under the belief that life is a fair playing field, that both pitch halves are just as big and the goal always has at least one cross. But ultimately the ball never bounces exactly where you want it to and the pitch is both bumpy and uneven." The world's only Puckelball pitch is in Malmö, Sweden, a city with many other great playgrounds and public spaces as well. Definitely worth a trip!

There be dragons in the sands at Showa Kinen Park, a huge 400 acre green space in northwest Tokyo.

Photo by Ed Jacob

Its Children's Forest has a landscape of mysterious pyramids that fills with fog for misty hide and go seek, giant marshmallow-like jumping pillows, and native rocks used to make mythic dragons and climbing walls that are way more interesting to scale than those of the plastic foothold variety.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

More dragons can be found at the City Museum in St. Louis Missouri, a surrealistic playscape made of recycled materials inside and outside a 600,000 square foot former shoe warehouse. There are watery lairs, Steampunk hallways, pipe organs, an eight foot spiral slide, recycled planes reached by perilous tunnel climbs AND a daily circus. As a bonus, visit the nearby park of giant turtle sculptures also designed by museum founder Bob Casilly.

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