How to start an adventure playground

There are some questions about adventure playgrounds that we at Pop-Up Adventure Play get asked a lot.

“What about liability insurance?”

“Who pays for these places?”

“Are they really safe?”

And, our favorite:

“How do I open one??”

When people ask this, flushed with new excitement, it’s worth taking a moment to step back and rethink the question.  On the one hand, we want to see as many adventure playgrounds as possible.  We’re thrilled to be part of this new wave of interest in adventure playgrounds, and to be helping those new sites with their staff training.  But more importantly, we want all adventure playgrounds to be great adventure playgrounds.

And that comes down to staffing.

Great playworkers can make the most of a site that is frankly crap, while uptight or apathetic playworkers can ruin the richest of environments.  We all share a burden of anti-child, anti-play education to dismantle before we can support children’s play in specific, nuanced ways.  We all need a community of professionals to show us options of response, to encourage us when things get hard, and to celebrate the successes that only people in this weird and glorious field would understand.  The revolution starts within.

For anyone genuinely interested in starting a new adventure playground, there’s nothing like spending time on a good site and talking to people who have been doing this work for years.  That’s one of the reasons why we’re hosting the upcoming Playwork Campference in partnership with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play – and on their new adventure playground.

Days of learning and practicing the concrete skills and philosophical underpinnings of true playwork practice.  Afternoons listening to people who have done it themselves – Prof. Fraser Brown (veteran playworker and author of Playwork: Theory and Practice and other landmark texts), Jill Wood (Founder and Head of Adventure Playground at the Parish School).  Evenings watching The Land and asking Director Erin Davis all about it, or sitting around the bonfire while the conversations go deep.

We couldn’t be more pleased about all this, but we’re not doing it for us!  So, why should you be there?

1.  You get to be a part of a new adventure playground’s opening, asking its organizers and others about the common barriers these sites face, and how they have overcome them

2.  We have a tight focus on adventurous play, undistracted from lots of nonsense about learning outcomes.  For a few days, you can take a break from needing to justify this approach and instead immerse yourself in its richness, challenges and rewards

3.  We’ve chosen to highlight great playwork practitioners rather than professional speakers, so get ready for some amazing and inspirational people who you haven’t even heard of yet – people who remain available throughout the Campference for follow-up questions (and probably a beer as well)

4.  This event is truly international, with four countries represented so far and several people coming from the UK.  Talk with colleagues across generations of practice, and in all sorts of communities.  This diversity of voices gives you more ideas to draw upon, as on-site mentors help you build your own foundation of theory and style of playwork practice

5.  This is the first Playwork Campference, and it may be the last!  We can’t promise we’ll do this again.

If you love these sites, this work, these ideas – register now.  



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