Adventure playground

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A small adventure park in Lappeenranta, Finland

An adventure playground is a specific type of playground for children. Adventure playgrounds can take many forms, ranging from "natural playgrounds" to "junk playgrounds", and are typically defined by an ethos of unrestricted play, the presence of playworkers (or "wardens"), and the absence of adult-manufactured or rigid play-structures.[1][note 1] Adventure playgrounds are frequently defined in contrast to playing fields, contemporary-design playgrounds made by adult architects, and traditional-equipment play areas containing adult-made rigid play-structures like swings, slides, seesaws, and climbing bars.[2]


Harry Shier, in Adventure Playgrounds: An Introduction (1984), defines an adventure playground this way:

An Adventure Playground is an area fenced off and set aside for children. Within its boundaries children can play freely, in their own way, in their own time. But what is special about an Adventure Playground is that here (and increasingly in contemporary urban society, only here) children can build and shape the environment according to their own creative vision.[3]

The first planned playground of this type, the Emdrup Junk Playground, opened in Emdrup, Denmark, in 1943. In 1948, an adventure playground opened in Camberwell, England. The term "junk playground" is a calque from the Danish term skrammellegeplads. Early examples of adventure playgrounds in the UK were known as "junk playgrounds", "waste material playgrounds", or "bomb-site adventure playgrounds".[4][5] The term "adventure playground" was first adopted in the United Kingdom to describe waste material playgrounds "in an effort to make the ‘junk’ playground concept more palatable to local authorities".[6]

The architect Simon Nicholson numbered among the advantages of the adventure playground, "the relationship between experiment and play, community involvement, the catalytic value of play leaders, and indeed the whole concept of a free society in miniature.'"[7] Essential in this for Nicholson was the concept of 'loose parts': "In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it."[8][9] In a playground context loose parts would include:[10]

  • natural resources – such as straw, mud and pine cones
  • building materials and tools – planks, nails, hammers
  • scrap materials – old tyres, off-cuts of guttering
  • bark which can be both safe playground surfacing and a loose part
  • and, most essentially, random found objects.


The first junk playgrounds were based on the ideas of Carl Theodor Sørensen, a Danish landscape architect, who noticed that children preferred to play everywhere but in the playgrounds that he designed. In 1931, inspired by the sight of children playing in a construction site, he imagined "A junk playground in which children could create and shape, dream and imagine a reality". His aim was to provide children living in cities the same opportunities for play that were enjoyed by children living in rural areas.[11] The first adventure playground was set up by a Workers Cooperative Housing Association in Emdrup, Denmark, during the German occupation of the 1940s. The playground at Emdrup grew out of the spirit of resistance to Nazi occupation and parents' fears that "their children's play might be mistaken for acts of sabotage by soldiers".[12] Play advocates sometimes emphasize the importance of adventure playgrounds for children of color in the United States, where policing "can feel like a kind of occupation".[12]

Mischievousness and sneaking around were criminalized in Nazi occupied Copenhagen, Adventure Playgrounds were born as a response.
— Play:groundNYC, #playwork [13]

The UK[edit]

Marjory Allen, an English landscape architect and child welfare advocate, visited and subsequently wrote a widely-read article about the Emdrup Adventure playground titled Why Not Use Our Bomb Sites Like This? and published in the Picture Post in 1946.[14] While Marjory Allen's article is often credited with the introduction into the UK of "the idea of transforming bomb sites into 'junk playgrounds', historians of the Adventure playground movement have pointed to the role played by other experiments carried out by youth workers in the UK. For example, "Marie Paneth, an art therapist heavily influenced by Freud, independently developed the concept of permissive play as a tool for ameliorating childhood aggression in her work running a blitz-era play centre in London although not specifically incorporating the elements of a Junk/Adventure playground pointing to her role in the history of UK specific Playwork development."[15][16]

List of adventure playgrounds[edit]

To date, there are approximately 1,000 adventure playgrounds in Europe, most of them in England, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland. Japan also has a significant number of adventure playgrounds.[17]

The Americas[edit]

  • TELUS Spark, in Calgary, Alberta has a Junkyard Playground open in the summer months.[18]
  • The city of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, piloted a mobile adventure playground in five city parks during the summer of 2016.[19][20]
  • Toronto Ontario hosted an Adventure Playground from 1974 until the mid-1980s. It was a part of the revitalization of the waterfront called Harbourfront Centre.[21]
  • The City of Coquitlam in British Columbia created an Adventure Playground in the summer of 2018 as a pilot project.[22][23]
United States




  • The Venny, Kensington Adventure Playground. Kensington, Victoria.



Denmark has several adventure playgrounds, now known as Byggelegeplads (Building-playground) and formerly as Skrammellegeplads (Junk-playground).[29] From the first site in Emdrup, the idea spread across the country and at the height of the popularity in the 1960s, there were about 100 adventure playgrounds in the country.[30] Present active adventure playgrounds in Denmark includes:

  • Abenteuerspielplätze und Kinderbauernhöfe in Berlin, or AKiB for short, is a federation of adventure playgrounds and children's farms in Berlin, Germany[39]
  • St Hans bygglekplats in Lund
  • Borgarparkens bygglekplats in Lund
  • Klostergårdens bygglekplats in Lund
  • Robi-Spiel Aktionen—An organization of adventure playgrounds in Basel, Switzerland[40]
United Kingdom


  • BDJA: Adventure playgrounds and city farms in Europe and what they contribute to sustainable urban development, a study from Germany
  • Kotliar I.A. and Sokolova M.V. (2014). "Adventure Playground as an Example of the Child's Right to Play". Psychological Science and Education 6 (no.2) (2): 81–90. doi:10.17759/psyedu.2014060207.
  • Leichter-Saxby, Morgan (2007) Constructing the “Natural” Child: The Materiality of Play, Power and Subversion at Evergreen Adventure Playground. M.A. thesis, University of London. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  • Sutton, Lia (2005): Kinderparadijs (Children's Paradise): Advancing the Adventure Playground Movement, a student's thesis (Hampshire College, Massachusetts)
  • Wilson, Reilly Bergin (2014) Who Owns the Playground: Space and Power at Lollard Adventure Playground (1954–1961). M.A. thesis, University of Leeds.


Arts and Theatre[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons." "Playwork Principles". Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group. 2005. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  2. ^ The Setagaya Play Park was featured in episode 48 of Arirang's "Going Global" series "Going Global _ Japan "adventure playground"". ARIRANG CULTURE. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved January 23, 2017.


  1. ^ Tao, Tao Holmes (November 6, 2015). "Playworkers, Ph.Ds, and the Growing Adventure Playground Movement". Atlasobscura. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  2. ^ Hayward, Geoffrey D.; Rothenberg, Marilyn; Beasley, Robert (1974). "Children's Play and Urban Playground Environments: A Comparison of Traditional, Contemporary, and Adventure Playground Types". Environment and Behavior. 6 (2): 131–168. doi:10.1177/001391657400600201. S2CID 220476708.
  3. ^ Shier, Harry (1984). Adventure Playgrounds: an introduction (PDF). London, UK: National Playing Fields Association.
  4. ^ Wilson, Penny (2010). The Playwork Primer (PDF). Alliance for Childhood.
  5. ^ Wilson, Reilly Bergin (2014). Who Owns the Playground: Space and Power at Lollard Adventure Playground (1954–1961) (M.A.). University of Leeds.
  6. ^ Wilson, Reilly Bergin (2014). Who Owns the Playground: Space and Power at Lollard Adventure Playground (1954–1961) (M.A.). University of Leeds. p. 21.
  7. ^ Robertson, Juliet (8 December 2017). "Simon Nicholson and The Theory of Loose Parts – 1 Million Thanks — Creative STAR Learning | I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!". Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  8. ^ Nicholson, Simon (October 1971). "How Not To Treat Children: The Theory of Loose Parts". Landscape Architecture. 62: 30–34.
  9. ^ Weinstein, C. S.; David, T. G., eds. (11 November 2013). Spaces for children : the built environment and child development. Plenum Press. p. 205. ISBN 978-1-4684-5227-3. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  10. ^ Play Wales (July 2017). Resources for playing : providing loose parts to support children's play : A Toolkit (PDF). Play Wales. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-9932410-4-8. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  11. ^ Sutton, Lia (2011). "History of Adventure Playgrounds".
  12. ^ a b Eisa, Nefertari Ulen (July 25, 2016). "When Play Is Criminalized: Racial Disparities in Childhood". Truth Out. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  13. ^ Play:groundNYC (May 5, 2017). #playwork. New York, New York: @play_groundnyc.
  14. ^ Highmore, Ben (2013). "Playgrounds and Bombsites: Postwar Britain's Ruined Landscapes". Cultural Politics. 9 (3): 323–336. doi:10.1215/17432197-2347009.
  15. ^ Wilson, Reilly Bergin (2014). Who Owns the Playground: Space and Power at Lollard Adventure Playground (1954–1961) (M.A.). University of Leeds.
  16. ^ Smith, Mark K. (1996). "Featured book: Marie Paneth (1944) Branch Street. A sociological study, London: George Allen and Unwin". Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Play and Playground Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  18. ^ Telus Spark (May 23, 2019). "Junkyard Playground". Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  19. ^ Nerman, Danielle (September 20, 2016). "City wraps ups Calgary mobile adventure playground pilot". CBC News. Cagdary. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  20. ^ "Mobile Adventure Playground". The City of Calgary. 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  21. ^ "That time when Toronto had the greatest playground ever". blogTO. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  22. ^ "Coquitlam's Adventure Playground ends this weekend, will it be back next year? Here's what we found". Newslight. 2018-08-31. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  23. ^ "Letting kids be kids, a sneak peek at Coquitlam's new Adventure Playground". Newslight. 2018-06-29. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  24. ^ Adventure Playground
  25. ^ "scv-adventure-play". scv-adventure-play. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  26. ^ "Adventures Abound". Tokyo Weekender. Tokyo, Japan: Tokyo Weekender. May 20, 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  27. ^ "日本の冒険遊び場の歴史". Japan adventure playground creation association. 2003. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  28. ^ "どんなところ?". Kawasaki City Children's Dream Park (川崎市子ども夢パーク). 2008. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  29. ^ "Adventure Playgrounds Copenhagen 2003" (PDF). YNKB. 2003. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  30. ^ "Børnenes Kulturkanon [The Children's Culture Canon]". (in Danish). Ministry of Culture Denmark. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  31. ^ "Bredegrund Byggelegeplads" (in Danish). Copenhagen Municipality. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  32. ^ "Bondegården og Byggelegepladsen i Remiseparken" (in Danish). Copenhagen Municipality. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  33. ^ "Byggelegepladsen Regnbuen" (in Danish). Copenhagen Municipality. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  34. ^ "Rødovre Byggelegeplads". (in Danish). Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  35. ^ a b "Byggelegepladser i Rødovre Kommune" (in Danish). Rødovre Municipality. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  36. ^ "Højkjær Byggelegeplads" (in Danish). Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  37. ^ "Legepladsen Skolemarken" (in Danish). Børn i byen. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  38. ^ "Legepladsen Søndergård" (in Danish). Børn i byen. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  39. ^ "Abenteuerspielplätze und Kinderbauernhöfe in Berlin" (in German). Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  40. ^ "Robi Spiel Aktionen" (in German). Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  41. ^ Leichter-Saxby, Morgan (2007). Constructing the "Natural" Child: The Materiality of Play, Power and Subversion at Evergreen Adventure Playground (MA). University of London.
  42. ^ Banyard, Natalie (January 18, 2017). "The story of a Bristol adventure playground is being turned into a major new musical". Bristol Post. Retrieved January 18, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ Thorne, Jack (February 6, 2017). "Jack Thorne's Junkyard: how I turned an adventure playground into a musical". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 12, 2017.

External links[edit]