Last week, I went on a road trip with my daughter through the Midwest visiting college campuses. Along the way we also visited different playgrounds in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Indiana. We were busy. When we got to Michigan, I realized that I had not been there for 10 years. The last time I was in Michigan, I was working on the Able to Play project (ATP). ATP was a project of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in honor of their 75th anniversary. They contracted with Boundless Playgrounds (BP) to create approximately 23 inclusive play spaces. Boundless Playgrounds sub-contracted the creation of indoor play spaces to the Center for Creative Play of which I was at the time the Executive Director.
Throughout my childhood we played pretty much everywhere including the streets. Much of our play was kid-generated games and “projects.” During my daughter’s childhood, play happened in vacant lots, creek beds, and backyards. Now my grandchildren play on “safe” playgrounds, and the older kids opt for skateboarding and dirt bikes. So it doesn’t surprise me to see that the use of playgrounds today is predominately by parents with young children. Most playgrounds are designed for older children but the older kids find them boring. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to entice older children back to the playgrounds?