As the importance of health and safety has increased in our communities, we’ve seen playgrounds become less thrilling. While the desire to keep our children safe is natural and perfectly understandable, the question of whether or not you can be overprotective looms large. If one thing is clear anyway, it’s that an emphasis on ‘safe fun’ rarely translates to creativity or imagination.
It is one of the reasons why playground equipment has become so predictable and uninteresting, particularly to older children. Thirty years ago, playgrounds might not have looked as bright or colorful, but they were wonderlands of adventure.
The long metal slides glittered in the sun and burned your bottom on hot days. The rickety seesaw felt like it might collapse when you piled on with all your friends, but it always offered an exhilarating ride. The merry go round was surely the king of the park. Fraught with danger but kids were always coming up with new and ever riskier ways to ride it.
Making sure that modern playgrounds are safe isn’t a bad thing. Of course not. However, there is a lot to be said for letting children identify and respond to risk in their way. According to researchers in Norway, encountering dangers during play is an integral part of early development. Climbing high, spinning fast, and swinging from monkey bars arms free is a healthy way to learn about the world and the limits of the body.
Playing, particularly with playground equipment, is also a great way for children to stay active. So, where have all the wacky, zany, incredibly playgrounds gone? Is the spirit of adventure still out there just waiting to be discovered? Well, if you look in the right places, you might get a pleasant surprise.
This guide to the coolest playgrounds on the planet is going to introduce some crazy spots where unbridled adventure still lives. Some of the boring BC Playgrounds can learn from these great playgrounds around the world.
1: Neptune Park
Neptune Park, in Saratoga Springs, is a relatively recent invention. It only opened in 2012, but it has captured imaginations ever since. This is primarily because of its thirty-foot tall climbing pyramid. It is the largest climbing frame of its type anywhere in the western world because it reaches past most two story buildings. The great thing about it is that kids can climb without fear. There are safety nets all around which prevent anybody from falling further than six feet.
2: Swarovski Crystal World
While Crystal World entrances the grownups, because it provides a detailed history of Swarovski jewels, kids can head straight for the huge trampoline. Like Neptune Park, it also has a super cool climbing tower. It is kitted out with rope swings, slides, and all manner of thrilling hideaways and climbing obstacles.
3: Lake Macquarie Variety Playground
The playground equipment at Lake Macquarie is a versatile arrangement, and it is designed to suit kids of all ages. In fact, many of the features are completely safe for disabled and visually impaired children too. The huge climbing tower, sprawling zip line, and incredible curly slide is enough to enchant any visitor. Those with mobility problems can join in with almost all of the activities. Even the swings are wheelchair friendly.
4: Imagination Playground
The Imagination Playground was designed by a top architect. It is a little different to most playgrounds because it doesn’t contain much. There are no towering climbing frames or rope swings. Instead, kids are encouraged to use construction blocks, sand, and water to create entirely new toys and equipment.
5: Nagasaki School
This amazing playground is located on the roof of a school in Nagasaki, Japan. The main features are a fire engine pole and a climbing net which allow children to travel between the classroom and playground in style. The playground received a lot of critical acclaims when it was finally unveiled because it connects indoor and outdoor spaces in such a beautiful way.
6: Harry Thomas Sr. Playground
Now, for a very unusual playground indeed. The Harry Thomas Sr. Playground is entirely themed around mathematics. To be specific, its design is based on the famous Fibonacci numbers. The shape and arrangement of the playground equipment correspond to the numerical sequence. It is an ambitious idea, but we do wonder if the mathematical theme isn’t a little too advanced for most visitors.
7: Woodland Discovery
In Memphis, you’ll find the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. What you might not find (at least not so easily) is the playground that it built. The aim for Woodland Discovery was to create an almost ‘hidden’ landscape which blends seamlessly with the trees. Look carefully on your walk through the woods, and you’ll find secret treehouses, concealed sand pits, winding walkways, and invisible slides. Playground Equipment Vancouver BC loves Woodland Discovery because it blends nature and a natural play environment into a safe playground.
8: The Land
While the name might be a little uninspiring, this playground is anything but. It was inspired by a series of ‘junk adventures’ which were developed by a Danish architect in the thirties. The Land is an adventure park in the purest sense. Kids are encouraged to climb trees, swing from ropes, build dens, and learn how to light fires. The important thing is that parents do not supervise. Children are left alone for the most part, and the hope is that they’ll learn something new about themselves and the world.
9: New York Hall of Science
Corona, just outside central New York, is home to the Hall of Science and its sprawling Science Playground. It spans a remarkable 60,000 square feet, and there are opportunities to climb, spin, jump, balance, ride, and learn all about the science of movement. One of the most popular features is a huge spider web which is great for clambering around in.
Wallholla is an interesting playground because it is only a few feet wide. It reaches up to the sky though so that many children can share it at one time. The center of the structure holds a sturdy climbing net, and kids use this to scale the mini-skyscraper. On all the levels, there are little openings so that you can get outside and walk around the structure. It is very new and different perspective on the play, but it is proving to be a big hit. The Danish design is currently being copied in the States.
So, there you go. It is possible to create glorious, adventurous playgrounds which inflame young imaginations and get brains thinking. We believe that the best forms of play are those that teach you something. It’s even more special when kids don’t realize that they’re learning while they’re having fun.
The important thing is that none of the playgrounds listed are particularly dangerous or risky either. Some place emphasis on freedom and lack of supervision but even these environments encourage children to learn safe behaviors. Perhaps the point is that we should trust our children more and expect them to make the right decisions for themselves.