The Pop-Up Adventure Play crew are present day ambassadors of a tradition that took root in the UK at the conclusion of World War II. Adventure Playgrounds, Venchies or Junk Playgrounds as they are variously known came on the scene in wartime Emdrup, a district of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Emdrup got rolling in 1943 under Nazi occupation. It would have truly been an oasis for kids. John Bertelesen, the first staff person at this playspace had definite ideas on what an adult’s role should be.
« I consider it most important that the leader not appear too clever but that he remain at the same experimental stage as the children. In this way the initiative is left, to a great extent, with the children themselves and it is thus far easier to avoid serious intrusion into their fantasy world. »
Fortunately for kids in London and other parts of the UK, Lady Allen of Hurtwood visited landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen’s Emdrup junk playground. She played a pioneering role in introducing the concept in England with adventure playgrounds initally located in bomb sites. Lady Allen became a lifelong champion and advocate promoting the importance and value of children’s independent play.
And there’s the rub, how do we as adults do our best for kids in play environments? The adventure playground ethos argues that it’s about giving kids space, supporting discovery, curiosity and exploration without dominating or directing what’s going on.
Left to their own devices, kids will take an unscripted, organic, meandering journey along the path of play. At pop-up play events overflowing with loose parts, there’s a natural mystic blowing through the air. The atmosphere is charged with squeals of delight and eureka moments as the creative and sometimes anarchic machinations of kids at play lets loose. This kind of play is invaluable.
There have been short-lived adventure playgrounds in Canada – notably Montreal and Toronto. We’ll take a look at these in a future post.
For more on playworkers and adventure playgrounds, please click through here, or on the photo below for a Storify compilation of videos, photos and other resources.
Ed’s note – notice the absence of adults in most of the images above.
If you’re in Nova Scotia, please join us on Sunday, July 23 for Pop-Up Adventure Play‘s Public Talk – The Wonderful World of Adventurous Play in the Paul O’Regan Hall of the Halifax Central Library at 2 pm.