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Adventure Playgrounds Set the Children Free

An exploration of how adventure playgrounds enable freedom for children living in a world full of helicopter parents.
November 22, 2016, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Alexandra Lange visits Kodomo Yume Park in Tokyo, where children encounter the elements of play, freedom, and risk, as an example of the adventure playground movement.

Adventure playgrounds have been in existence since the end of World War II, but the ideas behind the adventure playgrounds have more recently become a form of resistance to the practices of contemporary helicopter parents. Lange identifies the public realm as the panacea for the structured and insulated lives of kids these days.

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. 

With that polemic in place, Lange tours the adventure playgrounds in Japan, providing insight into the design details and the activities of the children at play, while also critiquing the literature that has analyzed adventure playgrounds in the past.

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Published on Friday, November 18, 2016 in The New Yorker
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