Originally published September 23, 2016
Before I knew about the Adventure playground movement, I had a plan, a plan to make our playscape into one that mimicked the playscape that I spent my childhood in. It would be full of nature, overgrown grass, trees, water, dirt, and lots of “STUFF” to drag around and use in many ways. The children would play freely and endlessly in this space, losing track of the time, only stopping to refuel and dive right back in. There would be little nooks and crannies for play that was best spent with one other person, or out of the watchful eye of adults. There would be free access to water, shady areas, and spaces that they could alter and develop all on their own.
I knew from my childhood that playing in a space like this was when I felt most free and powerful. A space like this is where my strength arose, I became a leader, a creative problem solver, and the risk taker that I am today.
I can count on one hand the number of conflicts I remember. It just seemed when we were out in fresh air, we were better listeners, we were softer, kinder people, our ears and hearts were wide open. Sharing ideas and trying things out failure after failure without haste, because we knew we had what seemed to us like forever to get it right. Nature does that to you, it causes you to slip deep into its arms and float in a state of deep engaged play.
I remember collecting water samples from the creek in old jelly jars, drawing pictures of what floated inside, each morning we would run out to look at its changes, watch it mold, and grow with fuzz. We thought deeply, we thought scientifically, we taught ourselves. I remember climbing trees clear up to the tips collecting pinecones, you know the tiny ones before they open up and turn brown? Oh I used to fill sacks and bags full of them. It was like an instinct to collect, to compile stuff, most of the time natural materials. I knew that our playscape would have to offer natural materials that could be collected and transported.
Weather didn’t stop us either, in fact it just added to our already complex play. rain became puddles and puddles became oceans, the creek swelled up and mud was abundant. When it snowed we ran to the steep hill trudging up and zooming down again and again and again… lifting and hoisting huge balls of snow to sculpt out snow families, building igloos and forts from snow.. oh those were the days. I’d NEVER allow our children to miss out on the joys of the elements.. We would go outside in ALL weather in a Space Like This.