We've all heard of "Bring Your Own Beverage," but what about "Bring Your Own Playground?" With the Bushwaffle, a "personal space softening device" (PSSD), pioneered by the design studio Rebar, citizens can furnish plazas, parks, and other public spaces with inflatable cushions that serve as chairs, building blocks, or mini-trampolines.
Here's how Rebar describes them:
"Bushwaffle invite new forms of social interaction, collaboration, improvisation, and play... Bushwaffle are also entirely kid-friendly, their bright color and playful shape encourage cooperation and play among friends and new acquaintances... Bushwaffle float, slide, roll and bounce, and are easily moved by a large enough crowd, even when in formation."
See Bushwaffle in action:
Play is a mindset. It shouldn't be restricted to the playground; neither should it be restricted to children. Play is for everyone and can happen everywhere!
This was the philosophy that drove our recent work at last week's re: Streets charrette, which brought together urban planners, landscape architects, environmentalists, city officials, and play advocates from across the country to "explore the future of streets and what America's roadways would be like if they were designed for living, instead of driving."
One of our challenges as part of the "Play and Recreation" working group was to redesign a residential street to offer play opportunities to neighbors aged 0 to 100. We all agreed that it was important to design the street so that cars and playing families could co-exist, but that it was also important for the street to close periodically so that neighbors could gather and play without the interference of cars.
What can we add to a street to make it more playful? Here are a few ideas:
Most of these ideas are things that neighbors can build, create, or install themselves. We also discussed creating a "Play Street Kit," complete with game stencils; DIY instructions for building sandboxes and storage benches; and other play elements. What would you like to see included in this kit? What other ideas do you have for making your street more playful?
Don't feel like driving your kids to summer camp? Start your own camp, then—on your own street. That's exactly what neighbors Jennifer Antonow and Diana Nemet decided to do last summer, and they insist that getting a neighborhood camp up and running is not nearly as daunting as it may sound.
Inspired by Playborhood founder Mike Lanza's Camp Yale, Jennifer and Diana kicked off Camp Iris Way in Palo Alto, Calif. last summer and returned this summer for a second round. This year's session, in early June, attracted a whopping 72 children and teens—more than 90 percent of the youth in their neighborhood!
The model is flexible and virtually free. All it takes is the collective effort of dedicated community members like you. Here, Jennifer and Diana draw from their own experience to share six steps for getting started:
There you have it—six steps to getting kids outside, empowering local teens, pooling community assets, and in the process, transforming your neighborhood. Don't just shake your head and lament that your neighborhood has no camp of its own—get out there and start one!
Photo credit: Aaron Selverston, Palo Alto Patch.
Check out this slideshow to see photos from Camp Iris Way and learn more on the Palo Alto Patch:
Is your community drab? Sterile? Unwelcoming? City Repair to the rescue!
In our last "Bright ideas" post, we showcased Detroit's Mower Gang, a group of citizen activists who have taken it upon themselves to help maintain Detroit's parks. Here's another inspiring example of citizen activism in Portland, Ore., where a volunteer-driven nonprofit group called City Repair motivates residents to take ownership of their communities by infusing them with play, color, and public art.
Among many projects, City Repair just wrapped up its yearly Village Building Convergence, an "annual ten-day placemaking festival that combines crowdsourced activism, creative community development, hands-on education and celebration."
Here's how one neighborhood "repaired" its intersection during the festival:
Check out City Repair's other projects and get inspired to bring some life to your city.
Photos courtesy of City Repair (cc).
It’s sad to see a park in disrepair. Actually, sometimes it can be downright spooky. (See our Spooky Playgrounds post from last Halloween.)
An ill-maintained park becomes vulnerable to vandalism and crime. A playground covered in graffiti invites more graffiti; a field scattered with trash invites more trash. A single park closure can launch a vicious cycle that changes the entire character of a neighborhood. It can also lower property values and deter tourists.
In Detroit, Michigan, overgrown and abandoned parks are an all-too-common sight to behold. But rather than sit around and grumble, members of the Mower Gang are taking matters into their own hands. Self-described “renegade landscapers,” they are spirited citizen activists who have realized that they have the tools they need—namely, mowers, trimmers, lawn tractors, and muscles—to help transform Detroit’s decrepit parks. Here’s what they say on their website, MowerGang.com:
“The Mower Gang mows public land in Detroit. These are abandoned parks that the city can no longer afford to keep in good repair. Rather than see them abandoned, the Mower Gang swoops in and keeps the weeds from taking over, preserving places for kids to play. We have been called renegade landscapers, reverse vandals, and vigilante against vandalism. Whatever you call what we do, we have fun doing it. Mower Gang events are one-part biker rally and one-part cleanup.”
Their work doesn’t stop at mowing, either. Realizing that many playgrounds in Detroit had swing sets, but no swings, the Mower Gang began a project on Kickstarter to replace 40 of the city’s 200+ missing swings. They aimed to raise a modest $800 and ended up with $3,020.
And yesterday, on May 15, the Mower Gang convened to create the “largest community watermelon park” in the city. Why? Because watermelon is “delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow.” Do you need a better reason than that?
Here are some past Mower Gang events:
At Riverside Park, the Mower Gang not only trimmed the lawn but took advantage of gang member's expertise in cement work to help repair this play structure. After a paint job, the whale looked as good as new. Photos courtesy of MowerGang.com.
The gang got creative with their mowing here. Why mow an entire field when you can mow a human maze? Photos courtesy of MowerGang.com.
These before and after pictures of an abandoned racetrack show the effects of a little TLC. Photos courtesy of MowerGang.com.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a playful spirit, a can-do attitude, and a lawn mower.
There's one surefire way to beautify your local playground: just add green. But put away your shovels and gardening gloves; get ready to fling some mud!
The "Batalla Verde," or "Green Battle," was originally staged by the Spanish design firm Urbanolismo in the town of Castell de Guadalest. Seeking an efficient, entertaining, and community-oriented way to plant its newly designed Mora Park Playground, the firm set 200 volunteers loose on huge containers full of seeds, clay, dirt, and water. The result? A massive mud fight that gave rise to a garden a few weeks later.
Has volunteering ever looked so FUN?!
See more photos on Urbanolismo. The firm is seeking a site for its next Green Battle. Any takers?
Special thanks to Playscapes for sharing this wonderful initiative!
All children need access to a playground, but that doesn't mean play has to be confined to swings and slides. Play, by its very nature, is spontaneous -- it can happen nearly anywhere, with nearly anything, and under nearly any circumstances. After World War II, Danish landscape architect Theodore Sorensen observed children's delight over playing with rubble and scraps, an observation that led to the birth of Adventure Playgrounds.
We have covered some notable Adventure Playgrounds previously in this blog. While Europe boasts over a thousand, our risk-adverse society can only stomach four. However, a new kind of Adventure Playground has begun popping up, literally. In New York City, a team of play and child professionals, designers, artists and filmmakers are pioneering Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds, in which children create their own worlds out of everyday items that are not normally considered "toys."
Just as play can erupt spontaneously, a Pop-Up Adventure Playground can pop up anywhere -- in a park, a front yard, a plaza, on a sidewalk... the possibilities are endless. The idea is simply to get kids playing outside with other kids, in an environment that flexes their creative muscles. The best part? A Pop-Up Adventure Playground doesn't have to cost a dime. While it may be difficult for adults to envision the play opportunities presented by, say, a stack of newspapers, children will inevitably turn them into hats, or curtains, or faux snowballs.
Take a look at these child-ruled kingdoms:
We've all built sandcastles and snowmen. But have you ever built a Fairy House? These whimsical "bonsai houses," which are the perfect size for fairies and other small creatures, are constructed of natural materials, like sticks, bark, dry grasses, pebbles, shells, feathers, seaweed, and pine cones.
Fairy Houses originated on islands off the coast of New England and have since been popularized by Tracy Kane, author and illustrator of The Fairy Houses Series®, who promotes building them as a way for adults and children to use their imaginations and connect with the natural world.
You don't need a forest to build a Fairy House -- you can build one in your yard, at your local park, or in a tree on your street. Sprinkling Fairy Houses throughout your neighborhood is a surefire way to bring wonder and delight to unsuspecting passersby.
photo by Urban Sea Star (cc).
photo by Kathie Hodge (cc).
Photo by Clarissa (cc).
Photo by Clarissa (cc).
Ella Larose (cc).
Photo by Jeff Christiansen (cc).
Photos by Ella Larose (cc).
Photo by Amy Bradstreet (cc).
Photo by Alan Cleaver (cc).
Learn more about Fairy Houses and access instructions for building one at FairyHouses.com.
Playgrounds for delivery? In Dundee City, UK playgrounds Play on Wheels (POW), a “mobile play service,” delivers temporary playgrounds to children in need. Filled with crafts, loose parts, and other “play stuff,” the POW vehicle travels to schools, parks, and public spaces, offering children opportunities for unstructured, child-directed play.
For decades, mobile ice cream shops (aka "ice cream trucks") have brought the joy of frozen creamy goodness to children everywhere. Who is to say that trucks can’t bring children playgrounds, too?
See POW in action:
Photos courtesy of POW. See more photos.
POW is a joint venture between the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries and Working on Wheels, which both aim to increase play opportunities. Working on Wheels is pioneering the concept of mobile community service, going beyond play to address other community needs. They assert that a “mobile community vehicle” can also function as a:
Intrigued? Working on Wheels encourages you to consider setting up your own Mobile Project, and offers an online guide to get you started.
Can one swing turn a vacant lot into a park? Members of The Red Swing Project think so. With a mission to infuse playfulness in our towns and cities by installing red swings in under-utilized public spaces, The Red Swing Project has hung 112 swings worldwide since its founding in 2007.
Here are a few of them. Photos are courtesy of The Red Swing Project; you can find more here.
Red swings in Brazil (left) and Thailand (right).
Post-Katrina in New Orleans, La. Can you find the red swing?
Under the "L" in Chicago, Ill.
After all, children see play opportunities everywhere, so why not insert playful elements throughout our cities and towns? Not all play has to happen on the playground. Similar initiatives highlighted in past posts in our Bright Ideas series include ping-pong tables in public squares, trampolines in sidewalks, and stationary bikes at bus stops.
Could a public space in your community use a red swing? Check out this how-to video to hang one yourself:
Get more instructions, including a PDF knot manual on the Red Swing Project DIY website.