Sacramento Adventure Playground is a program powered by Fairytale Town. Located at Maple Neighborhood Center, the Adventure Playground is an after-school youth development program that enables youth ages 7 to 15 to engage in supervised play activities free of charge.
Essentially a makers’ laboratory or tinkerers’ workshop, the Adventure Playground puts real tools into the hands of youth so they can build and create things that reflect their own ideas and visions. Research shows that youth are inspired to be more imaginative, creative, collaborative and thoughtful in these nontraditional environments than they are in more structured playgrounds; and the range of play and activities offered in these playgrounds helps children express themselves while building useful skills that prepare them to grow into competent adults.
History of Adventure Playgrounds
Noticing that children preferred to play in open spaces with raw materials rather than the designed playgrounds he built, Danish landscape architect Carl Theodore Sorensen organized the first Adventure Playground in Copenhagen in 1943, during the German occupation of World War II. Originally known as junk playgrounds, urban children were able to build their own spaces and structures using real tools, raw materials, and cooperation.
In 1946, Lady Marjory Allen visited from England and was so impressed with junk playgrounds that she brought the idea back to London where they became known as Adventure Playgrounds. From then on the movement grew and Adventure playgrounds spread through Europe.
Currently, about 1,000 adventure playgrounds exist in Europe, largely in Denmark, Switzerland, France, German, the Netherlands and England. Japan has a number of Adventure playgrounds as well.
In the US, the movement has been slower to catch on. There are only a handful of adventure playgrounds across the nation, and most of them are destination playgrounds, rather than the neighborhood-oriented playgrounds in other parts of the world. The Berkeley Adventure Playground is the oldest and will celebrate its 37th anniversary this year. An adventure playground in Huntington Beach recently re-opened after being closed for some time. The Ithaca Children’s Garden in New York is now home to the Anarchy Zone. An Adventure Playground just opened on Governor’s Island in New York City. The Parish School in Houston Texas offers an Adventure Playground as after-school program for area youth.
Because if its mission to promote the imagination, creativity and education of children, Fairytale Town is proud to bring an Adventure Playground to Sacramento and to be part of the growing play movement in the United States.
How We Got Here
The Fairytale Town board of directors established a vision to “Inspire, educate and strengthen communities through play” in 2011. Since then, the organization has expanded its outreach into the community and explored opening an off-site facility. In 2015, the board committed to implementing an adventure playground at Maple Neighborhood Center in 2016.
The Sacramento Play Coalition is an outgrowth of the Sacramento Play Summit, Fairytale Town’s primary adult education program. Produced in partnership with the Sacramento Public Library, the Play Summit reinforces the importance of play to healthy child development and provides attendees with practical tools they can use in their homes, schools and day care centers. Conference attendees indicated a desire to meet more frequently to continue the conversations around play. In response to this, Fairytale Town initiated the Sacramento Play Coalition and held quarterly meetings since spring of 2015.
Members of the Play Coalition have focused on creating Pop-Up Adventure Play Days at Maple Neighborhood Center to gain momentum for the permanent Adventure Playground. Their leadership, hard work and commitment to play is inspiring and has helped bring the permanent adventure playground to fruition. Additional interests of the Play Coalition include advocating for play and play policy, developing white papers as issues arise, and sharing best practices.
In the News
The Sacramento Bee: Fairytale Town site in south Sacramento gives children space to play
Sacramento Magazine: Danger? Kids at Play