There are no cushy rubber mats. No wood chips. No soft padding to protect kids when they fall. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be much concern for safety at all this new ‘adventure playground.’ And that’s exactly the point. For $10 and a signed waiver, kids instead get to play with power tools and empty propane tanks. They can hammer real nails and hurl themselves down a DIY zip line (without a helmet, of course). It’s a place where kids can be kids ⏤ bumps, bruises, breaks, and all.
Part of a growing wave of adventure playgrounds that started in Europe, Minneapolis became the latest city this summer to embrace the free-range play movement with the park’s opening. Similar outdoor spaces that resemble junkyards, where kids are loosely supervised but generally allowed to create their own ‘dangerous’ fun, have been popping up over the last two years across the country. Two of the biggest are in Berkley, California, and on New York City’s Governors Island, and the concept behind them is simple: Let kids manage their own risk and make their own decisions, even if it means they get hurt a little in the process. They also help bolster creativity and confidence, say advocates.
Minneapolis’ new park is fittingly run by Leonard’s Basement, a non-profit that teaches kids how to use power tools, among other engineering, design, and artsy things, and the place is loaded with up with wood, PVC pipe, bricks and scrap; not to mention a large wooden Millenium Falcon and an old rusty SUV that kids climb in, on, or under. Saws, hammers, and supervision are provided but pretty much anything goes. The only downside to the new park, which continues to grow in popularity, appears to be the hours ⏤ it’s only open twice a month on Saturdays.