Rethinking the Playground

The Skillman Center for Children has a clear and singular mission: to enhance the economic and social well being of urban children and their families. After reading their Spring Newsletter, devoted to "Childhood Obesity and Play," I began to think that maybe it should be my mission too, this enhancement of the economic and social well being of urban children and their families. In fact, I went so far as to thinking that maybe it should be everyone's clear and single mission. Everyone's.

Though the 24-page Newsletter is loaded with frighteningly informed statistics and practical solutions, the section (beginning on page 10) really did it for me. It took the form of an article called "Moving from Monkey Bars to Mudpies: Rethinking the Playground." Which is an introduction to the concept of "Adventure Playgrounds." The author explains: "I learned about this kind of playground by accident through our neighborhood?s children?s community garden. The adults and older teens were intent on having a beautiful and perfect final product of a learning garden. But the kids had a different idea. They enjoyed constantly changing it. One day there would be a pond where the day before there was a planned flower bed. The garden was never neat and tidy. It looked like a giant mess of flowers, vegetables, fruit and piles of dirt. When we would get a load of dirt, the pile became things. At one point a pile had become a burial ground for a bee. The kids came up with the idea to have a funeral for 'brother bee,' and imitated their parents at funerals. They went around and all said things they would miss about the bee and 'fake cried.'"

We all have a lot of "fake crying" to do about some of the too real events of our days. I hope such playgrounds will have a place for all of us.


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