For our kids’ birthdays, Morgan and I always give them a special date with us (just us – no brothers or sisters). Bracken turned 6 this month and for his special date, we took him to what I now consider the coolest playground in the world. I’m not exaggerating. It’s called The Berkeley Adventure Playground and it works like this:
When you first show up, you sign a waiver to release the city of Berkeley from liability for injury (you’ll understand why in a minute). When you enter the playground you see all sorts of play structures that are made of recycled materials (old tires, wood, fishing nets, cables, etc.) and covered in colorful paint. You can climb and slide and dig and zip (check out the video) all you want.
If that was all, it would be a decent playground, but it gets so much better. As you are working your way around the playground you see kids of all ages (often assisted by adults) with hammers, nails, and wood creations. They are adding to the play structures. You see others with pails of paint and brushes – also adding to the play structures. When we went to explore how we might join in, we found a station where we could “rent” tools or paint. The cost for a hammer or a saw or a bucket of paint was either 10 nails, 5 wood splinters (bigger than your thumb), 5 pieces of trash, or 1 Mr. Dangerous (we had to ask to find out that a Mr. Dangerous is a piece of wood with the bad end of a nail sticking out.)
Bracken searched for about 15-20 minutes and found 8 nails, 3 wood splinters, and a Mr. Dangerous. He rented a hammer and made his way to the building station to start on his creation. It started out as just a few pieces of wood, haphazardly nailed together but after a short while it started to take the shape of an airplane. When he was finished he ended up wanting to bring it home instead of nail it to a play structure or hang it in the airplane tree.
The concept of this playground was beautiful in that it engaged kids (and adults) on a creative level that you don’t find many other places. You could look around and see kids’ faces light up with imaginative ideas. Then you’d see that spark when they realize that the idea they have, the one that seems so crazy or dangerous or silly, the one that Mom or Dad would shoot down if it were in their own back yard, that idea can become a reality.
That’s pretty cool. I want more days like that with my kids.