It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. – D.W. Winnicott, pediatrician
The Adventure Playground is a free after-school youth development program where urban youth can, with raw materials, create projects and play spaces that reflect their own ideas and vision. Essentially ‘makers’ laboratories, Adventure Playgrounds put real tools – paints, clay, hammers, nails, saws, gardening supplies, and such – into the hands of youth so they can create and destroy their own things and spaces with facilitation rather than direction from adults. Research shows that youth are inspired to be more imaginative, creative, collaborative and thoughtful in these nontraditional environments than they are in more structured playgrounds; and the range of play and activities offered in these playgrounds help children express themselves while building useful skills that prepare them to grow into competent adults.
Unfortunately, research also shows that play in general, and creative play in particular, is declining for youth. Today, children spend 50 percent less time at play than they did in the 1970s, which has led to significant increases in childhood illnesses (some would claim epidemics), such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. In addition to national and international research showing that youth need access to creative play, neighbors in the Maple area indicated there is need for play. In door-to-door surveys, the priorities identified by neighbors included after-school programs, education and art programs for school-aged youth, and employment opportunities. These needs can be met, at least in part, by the Adventure Playground.
Beginning August 23, 2016, the Playground will be open 16-20 hours a week during non-school times (i.e. after school, weekends and holidays). Participation in the Playground will be free of charge. While the intent is for the Playground to be used primarily by youth in the neighborhood, all area youth will be able to register for the program. In addition, the Playground will also hold regular ‘community days’ to allow youth and families from a larger geographic area to participate.
We are currently building momentum for the Adventure Playground by holding monthly ‘Pop-Up Adventure Play Days’ to give families in the neighborhood an idea of the activities we plan to offer there. They have been very successful. Attendees built structures from cardboard (one enterprising 8 year old constructed a helicopter!), painted murals on walls, dug mud holes, and created a string den, to name a few activities. All left asking when they could come back to play and create!