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A Different Kind of Play: Delta Adventure Playgrounds

When you think about taking the kids to the playground this summer, your first thought is probably a plastic or wooden play structure with a couple of swings, a slide, maybe a seesaw, all carefully safety tested and certified. Sure, those are fun, but there’s an entirely different kind of playground out there too. We recently visited an adventure playground – a unique place for kids to imagine, explore, build, and create!

Unlike your typical playground, an adventure playground is a space for kids to engage in unstructured play, explore their environment, learn to work with others, and develop their own creativity, autonomy, and problem-solving skills. Instead of a swing set and slide, kids find wood scraps, a hammer, and nails. Instead of climbing on a set of monkey bars, kids build their own climbing structures from donated and upcycled materials.

For the third summer in a row, the City of Delta is operating two adventure playgrounds at the North Delta Recreation Centre at 11415 84 Avenue, and at the South Delta Recreation Centre at 1720 56 Street. Both playgrounds are free to all children and open daily until September 2nd.

Each playground has a play attendant on site from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. The play attendant is there to be an advocate for play, oversee basic guidelines, educate children on the difference between a risk and a hazard, and to assist if first aid is required. Unlike your typical play space or summer program though, the attendant’s role is not to supervise or lead the children’s play, but rather to provide support at the request of the child.

Of course there are some basic safety guidelines. Closed-toe shoes are required, and all structures must be under 6 feet tall. The play attendant inspects the playground daily for safety hazards, sweeps the ground with a magnet for stray nails, blunts sharp edges, and ensures that structures are under the maximum height restriction. The attendant also manages access to the supply shed containing the tools, nails, paint, markers, and other building supplies.

Kids can create their own play structures using basic tools like hammers and saws, using any of the materials available to them. When we visited the South Delta Adventure Playground, kids were building with nails, hoses, rope, wood planks, wooden pallets, used tires, an old filing cabinet, a broken down playhouse, and pieces from an old vacuum cleaner. They were learning to design and construct their own structures with the supplies at hand, test out the feasibility of their designs, and revise and adapt their constructions as needed.

This was six-year-old Kay’s first time using a hammer. Sure, there were some bruised fingers along the way, but by the end of our visit, she’d figured out how to hit a nail without taking out her thumb too.

As a parent, it can be hard to watch your child take risks or struggle to figure out a challenge yet keep your help and suggestions to yourself. That’s why adventure playgrounds are a kids only space! Parents are encouraged to stay out of the play space so kids have the freedom to explore their own capabilities, develop self-reliance, and learn to assess acceptable risk for themselves.

At one point, Kay got her foot stuck between two boards. The first thing she did was call for my help. I walked a little closer and told her I believed she could figure it out on her own. A couple of other kids came over and between the three of them, they solved the problem. Kay pulled her foot out of her shoe, and then she and another child wrestled the shoe out from the planks. With the problem now fixed – without adult intervention – they all continued on their way.

At another point, Kay noticed some of the planks on their platform were unstable. She ran over to the play attendant to report it and said, “That part’s wobbly. It needs to be fixed.” I was thrilled to hear the attendant reply, “It does? Hmm, I think that’s your job.”

An adventure playground is a different kind of playground and a different kind of play: for kids and by kids. This summer, give your kids the space to take chances, exercise their creativity, and learn self-reliance!

About City of Delta Adventure Playgrounds

Open daily from July 2 – September 2, 2019
10:30 am – 5:00 pm
North Delta Recreation Centre | 11415 84 Avenue, Delta
South Delta Recreation Centre | 1720 56 Street, Delta
More info at the Delta Parks and Recreation website.

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