What kind of children’s playgrounds do we need?

Travel Tips

The other days I had an interesting experience of urban and pedagogical observation in the Carol Park in Bucharest. From the Underval youth festival that took place a few days ago in this park (and where I saw cops over-the-top assaulting teenagers, but that’s another story), there are remnants of what used to be a biker playground and bicycle tricks: pallets, bricks, boards, stones, tires, etc.

They were not collected immediately after the festival ended and remained there for another day. The only good opportunity to be taken over by a group of children between the ages of 1-7 years (approximately) and to be manipulated in any way.

The former playground of cyclists unexpectedly turned into a new ad hoc playgroundwhere toddlers explored side by side with slightly older children.

This was the general set up

It was fascinating to observe how they interacted with the space and available materials, how they moved them around or how they found different uses for them.

They were so engrossed in what they were doing, it was as if they were in a super ultra playground – in reality they were playing with some scraps and were totally focused on them! It wasn’t exactly safe, but every parent was careful not to hurt their dwarf.

The children improvised a slide out of boards supported by some pallets, moved pebbles around, kept their balance on other boards, built houses/castles/tunnels out of bricks. Noria, my little girl, had an obsession with leaning two planks on a pallet, which she would then watch so that someone wouldn’t move them to another position.

A children’s improvised slide.

It was also very interesting to observe the way the children negotiated with each other, how they exchanged materials, how they guarded their “creations”, how they gave permission or not to move various objects to another place or how they gathered in groups and everyone focused on the same thing.

Somehow, they eventually managed to negotiate without parental intervention, and the nodes of interest in the web of objects and possibilities of use moved around in a flexible way.


Oh, and there was also the phase with the “boss”: many children wanted to be the “boss”, and here too there was an intense negotiation. Who is the boss, for how long, what does he do, what are the others allowed to do, do they obey or not, who becomes the boss when the boss goes to play somewhere else or doesn’t want to be boss anymore.

I have seen this negotiation between children at playgrounds, and I can tell you that, unfortunately (in my view) being the boss is a real and important concern of children.

In action, building houses!

By the way, what do you think should be the basic goals of a really well thought out and built playground (be it outdoor or indoor)?In my view, a playground should not only provide easy and predictable fun, but rather help children explore and develop skills in an interactive and creative way.

For example, following the observations described above, I realized that there is a pronounced need for children to simply explore and interact with various materials, assemble, juggle and build with them.

Read here an article about what a truly successful, well thought out and designed urban play space should look like.

And herea brief anthropological viewpoint on play and toys.

Have you noticed, in Bucharest, a really interesting and interactive playground?

I don’t. They all seem built to the same insipid recipes, with the eternal and ubiquitous Chinese plastic at the helm. I mean strictly public spaces, accessible to everyone, not private ones. Do you know anything else?

A small call to action

Parents, community activators, anthropologists, educators, architects & urban designers, authorities, are we mobilizing to set up a truly interactive playground in Bucharest?

My opinion is that we should try to make a better city together (for us and our children) that we no longer feel the need to run away from or complain about endlessly, in the idea that we don’t have to accept everything what the administrative authorities propose, but we must negotiate with them, thus becoming active actors in our communities.

I know, life is hard and busy, we all have priorities or children to raise, but we will be able to raise the quality of the same life only through involvement and civic responsibility.

Explore with various textures

Let’s see what a sociologist says, in short:

“Bucharest is a festering wound, the sleepy city where the inhabitants would prefer not to sleep like that (and, with so many noxes sneaking through their windows, who can blame them?). They migrate to Cluj, they migrate to Sibiu, more recently to Iași, they migrate to Milan or Dublin or to “home in Ilfov” (a once sacred illusion, itself on the way to destruction due to poor infrastructure). In the words of journalist Elena Deacu, Bucharest is the city where you make the money to visit civilized and beautiful cities.”

[ Sursă – http://sociollogica.blogspot.ro/2017/04/demografia-schimba-romania-bizara.html?m=1 ]

Hmm, sound familiar?

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