Beyond the Monkey Bars

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Image by Elizabeth Albert*

To any parent who’s ever wished that their child’s experience at the local playground could be a little more meaningful, Imagination Playground comes as a welcome surprise. Roger Clark of NY1 reports that the first Imagination Playground Park, designed by high-profile architect David Rockwell, opened on July 27 in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport area. So what makes this space different from the traditional model that includes swings, slides, see-saws, and so on? The three features that set Imagination Playground apart are: loose parts (movable objects that enable children to build imaginatively); a manipulable environment (one equipped with raw materials, like sand and water, which prompt creativity); and Play Associates (trained adults who supervise and encourage children’s activities).

The thinking behind this experiment is that mental exercise is just as important for kids as its physical counterpart; imaginative play and collaborative play develop the young mind in several positive ways—as LCI’s teaching artists would be the first to testify. From Imagination Playground’s press kit: “Research shows that children at the age of eight who have experienced varied and challenging play are considerably better prepared to benefit from ongoing formal education.” So if you’re a New York City resident who’s in town this summer, lure your children away from the video game console and offer them a new kind of adventure. Take a field trip to Imagination Playground, located on John Street between Front and South Streets. Let them be the masters of their own game. And if you’re not in NYC, sit tight: Rockwell Group and KaBOOM!, the two organizations behind this new and exciting concept, are now looking at potential sites across America.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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