Creative Playground

Creative Playground

One of my fondest childhood memories is of the hours I spent at the playground in the park near my New Jersey home in the 1950s. Two ancient swing sets stood in the shade of mature trees, their massive wooden seats fastened to the crossbar not by chains, but by rigid iron bars with hooks on both ends. They let out a satisfying metallic screech as each arcing motion reached its zenith.

The mountainous silver-surfaced slide had a huge bump about halfway down, which made us kids scream with delight—except when the hot summer sun shone directly on it, and you burned your bottom. Sometimes the slide was “slow,” and you’d stick to it. An enterprising child would run home for a sheet of waxed paper and wax the slide by riding down it a few times while sitting on the waxed paper.

There were seesaws, too—wooden planks that teetered on a horizontal pipe. I didn’t like them—if your partner suddenly jumped off, your end of the board came down hard on the ground.

With the simplest equipment, we kids were able to have lots of fun. However, I am blown away by the imaginative playgrounds built today.


I love the organic look of this wooden structure. Photo by Martin Vorel.


Adventure Playground in High Park, Toronto, assembled by volunteers. Can you imagine playing in that castle? Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed in a fire. Photograph by Alaney2k.

ship playstructure in Estonia

“Ship” play structure in Estonia. Photo by Jaanus Silla.


Suspension bridge. Photo by Nino Barbieri.


Vivo City playground. In a shopping mall in Singapore. Photo by William Cho.


This playground is located at Yachthafenresidenz Hohe Düne (Yacht Harbor Residence High Dune) at the Baltic Sea, Rostock, Mecklenburg, Germany. Photo by Beauwell.

To my way of thinking, these beautiful playgrounds could only enhance imaginative play.

But the truth is, many of today’s children spend more time in virtual play than on an actual physical playground. Does it matter?

In the United States, elementary schools are pressured to devote more time to instruction in order for children to perform better on standardized tests. In that high-stakes environment, recess and physical education look like wasted time. But are they? Evidence suggests that students who have ample opportunity to move and play actually concentrate better and learn more with less effort because their brains and bodies are refreshed.

Playgrounds need not be expensive propositions. It’s possible to build beautiful play structures out of inexpensive, easily obtainable materials assembled by volunteers.

For more information on play and to see more examples of well-designed playgrounds, visit these websites:

In the olden days, many parents were with their children much of the day. Many parents worked in the home, some came home for the lunch hour. In a simpler time, children went off to play in the neighborhood with their friends.

Today’s parents have complex occupational requirements that prevent them from spending the day with their kids, and they may not be comfortable with them being outside and out of sight. Certainly, we are aware of the danger of children not being supervised. Yet, in those precious off-work hours parents might not have the time or energy for a trip to the playground.

What do you think? Do you like the play spaces in this article? Are modern playgrounds a waste or a necessity? How do we balance children’s outside play with their safety? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

2 responses »

  1. Thanks for helping me remember happy childhood play grounds. Today we take the grands to Desert Breeze in Chandler with a train, carousel, pond with ducks and fish, water sculptures and large jungle gym…and snack bar for popsicles if it’s open. Fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that park!
      When we lived in Hamilton Square, NJ, we used to take the kids to Veteran’s Park. They had the most gorgeous wooden play structures set back in the woods. They had a high, high wooden slide that Erin wanted to go down when she was three, but she was a little afraid. So I said, “Sure, I’ll go down with you,” and climbed up the ladder, and–froze. I could not slide down. We had to back down the ladder against the traffic of all the five- and six-year-olds who were not too afraid to slide down. It must have been twenty or thirty feet high.


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