During recent travels in Northern Europe (please excuse the pretentiousness) I was taken by the variety and creativity of German playground equipment. It struck me how hideous (okay, so that’s a subjective aesthetic evaluation) and clone-like the playgrounds in the U.S. tend to be. Cookie-cutter jungle-gyms, swing sets, and slides. Not much that feeds the imagination. They are getting better, but they still have a ways to go if the goal is a magical land of outdoor play-time. Feast your eyes on these German examples and see if you don’t agree that we could learn something about incorporating whimsy and general awesomeness into our parks designed for children.
First, a relatively simple one:
This mundane park in a suburb of Bremerhaven consists of two sandboxes, a slide, a swing-set, and a spring-loaded, rocking, red animal-thing. I can attest to the fun-factor of this playground, as I used it extensively during my toddler years. The equipment has been there since before I arrived on the scene in ’86, so there’s also a sturdy factor involved in the manufacturing of German playground equipment.
Next, we journey to Berlin, a grown-up playground of beautiful graffiti, imposing communist architecture, historical monuments and museums for atrocities, a nightlife catering to the unemployed masses, and somewhat surprisingly child-friendly areas. As I wandered back toward the hostel one afternoon, I came across a hippie paradise for children and their parents. Allow me to demonstrate:
This is a collaborative community project of a park geared toward the non-adult population. It went on for days and had a waffle stand (the deliciousness of which I can vouch for), a community center, an area for smaller children with hills and artsy places to climb, and postings for classes and happenings. When I visited it was still being worked on and I imagine it was an ongoing process of creativity. A man was busy shoving fence posts into the dirt as a passing boy watched, and you could hear all sorts of banging and sawing going on in the back. It was a creative mecca.
It also had a bunny zoo.
And a water section. In another area, there was a fire pit going and some dangerously steep slides for teenagers.
Just look at this amazing community center entrance!
As you can see from the striped tape, it was still under construction…or maybe they were trying to encourage the grass to grow.
Last, we journey to Bergadorf, a suburb of Hamburg, to what I affectionately and nostalgically refer to as “Dawn’s Park.”
Okay, big deal. This is just a train. It doesn’t event go anywhere.
BAM! Blue elephant slide.
And a wiggily crocodile!
In conclusion, German playgrounds are superior to their U.S. counterparts because they are all like this. Seriously awesome in unique ways. So catch up, America. Don’t make me take my hypothetical offspring elsewhere for their formative years…you may never get them and their future taxes back.