There’s a running joke in the parenting world that you can buy your child a new, amazing toy but they will subsequently end up playing with the box. Why? Because the toy, say a truck, is just a truck. Whereas the box could be a box, it could be a truck, but what if it’s actually a tractor, or it could be a rocket ship to the moon! When we offer a child “just a truck”, we instantaneously limit their imagination. If a child is offered an open-ended toy versus a consumer product you’re more likely to see them follow their own creative journey instead of a pre-conceived notion of what play with that product should look like. A box is never just a box in imaginative play.
When a child runs to a playground, is that playground just a slide with a ladder, and some monkey bars? Or is that playground full of potential to become a rumbling jungle in the mountains with a river of snapping crocodiles running through it. A playground can provide an endless amount of possibilities to help maximize their imagination. Can you remember where your creative mind took you as a child when you got to play at your favourite playground? We had an old, rusty, merry-go-round at our playground that we would spin and spin while pretending to be orbiting out of control in space!
Today’s latest technologies and playground concepts open our youth up to a whole new world of imagination and creative play. A great playground design means we are no longer confined to just a basic play structure. Three-dimensional frame nets and rope courses have created an exponential amount of new opportunities for amusement and exploration. These out-of-the-box approaches to play allow children the ability to not only play on the game, but also under the ropes and inside the ropes. Twists, turns, rises and falls offer a unique experience with each visit to the playground. Towering masts, in the eyes of a child, offer a sky-high challenge. They have free reign to turn that rope into a pirate ship mast, or a tangled spider web.
A great playground experience can feel like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. There are no step-by-step instructions for an imaginative playground. Even if a child decides to imagine the same scenario repeatedly during their playtime, it may still end up looking differently. As they encounter new children at the playground, as they mature through new developmental stages, or even as seasonal temperatures fluctuate, they end up with a different experience each time. Consider how something as simple as having to wear snow pants can add a whole new challenge to play! A playground is never just a playground when a child is encouraged to participate in open-ended and imaginative play.
Adding a trip to the playground into our day is a great way to build our imaginations. After all, a world without playgrounds would be like a toy without a box!