Guest Blog: The Abi Chronicles
Here are some more “life lessons” that are resonating with me while visiting the magical domain of the Berlin playground. For the start of this little series, please go to the previous entry.
Object Lesson #5: Revel in Natural-World Imagery.
Froggies, camels, mythical dragons, snakes, huge bugs…these are the stuff of a kid’s universe. The playgrounds here are like stage sets: zany, grotesque, colourful characters pop up their friendly faces and evoke nature – but with a storybook twist. So much richer with possibility, than Disney or Dora!
Object Lesson #6: Be One-Off.
Why should kids’ environments be cookie-cutter? We adults demand variety and uniqueness in our playspaces (think of restaurants and bars!) – and it’s even more important in playgrounds. I have never seen a piece of play equipment in Berlin replicated in any other playground: each swingset, slide or monkey bars, is a one-off piece. Because they’re mostly hewn from tree trunks (without each gnarl or edge sanded off to total uniformity) there are cool challenges to balancing and holding on: kids get to know their way round their local pieces!
Object Lesson #7: Kids Need Respite from Adults!
A recent book by a Canadian mother about French parenting caused a bit of a storm back home. One caller to a radio show fulminated that “in France, children at the beach are ignored by their parents – and so they’re forced to play by themselves!” Truth is, most children aren’t just OK with the feeling they aren’t being watched…they actually require it.
(Please know it’s the feeling of not being watched I’m recommending: not NOT being watched. Thank you.)
Playgrounds in Berlin offer lots of inviting nooks for kids to take shelter from the adult world. This is especially crucial for kids who don’t have backyards of their own to play in.
Object Lesson #8: Provide Loopholes
A hole in a fence…a patch of grass behind the shed…a swing that’s supposed to go up and down but is much more fun when it goes round and round…these are the tiny customizations that imaginative, physically curious kids make for themselves. In Berlin playgrounds, the signs this is taking place, are everywhere.
Object Lesson #9: Distinguish Safety Culture from Liability Culture
In Berlin playgrounds, there are way more ouch-attunities than I’m used to at home in Toronto. (I saw a toddler mistake a sand-chute for a slide the other day, with painful consequences – but he’ll return with extra caution: no serious harm done.) These playgrounds aren’t dangerous places – far from it. But they do offer room for real challenge…mistakes…getting back on the horse and trying again. You can bet that the benefits (lower obesity rates, agile, physically intelligent kids) outweigh the cost of the odd boo-boo.