A couple of Fridays ago C had the day off, and lucky him that meant that our entire family could head off for an adventure together… to the local Adventure Playground!
Located in Huntington Beach (CA), Adventure Playground is designed developmentally for children ages five and up, and it’s a playground like no other. Well, not exactly no other, but turns out that according to this NPR story, there are only THREE such adventure playgrounds remaining in operation throughout all of the United States, and all happen to be located in California. The one in Huntington Beach is one of two in Orange County (the other is in Irvine, CA), and the third is farther to the north in Berkeley, CA.
At the Adventure Playground in Huntington Beach, kids can row a wooden raft across a shallow pond with a buddy (or solo), traverse a rope bridge, ride down a mudslide, and build tree house-style forts out of scrap wood, tires, and nails using real hammers, saws, and other tools (gloves provided). Closed-toed shoes are required at all times throughout the park, and getting wet and dirty is pretty much par for the course.
I think T liked the rafting best as he wanted to do this again and again and with all of his friends who attended the play date with him. A junior SUP’er after my own heart perhaps? But just as much as T liked the rafting, he really loved hunting down pieces of trash and broken nails all so that he and his friends (and all the parents helping them) could earn more nails to construct their fort. Yeah, forts and rafts are pretty close to one another in popularity not just with T but with all of the kids, given how often they’d race back and forth between activities.
Well, the kids could race-walk between stations anyway. As explained to us during our introductory debriefing with Adventure Playground staff, there’s absolutely no running allowed at Adventure Playground at anytime, and the consequences for doing so are pretty strict. Staff is not shy about giving time-outs for breaking that rule among others, such as throwing or dropping materials inside of the construction areas, removing shoes, using the rafts and oars for anything but rafting and rowing, or going the wrong way on the mudslide or rope bridge. And the best part about all of these rules is that it was rare that I saw a kid put in time-out. Why? Because they wanted to be sure not to miss a single experience during their time at this most excellent playground. Can I please have one of these park staffers come home with me to re-tool and enforce our own house rules?
You are probably wondering why there aren’t more of these types of play spaces for our kids. Adventure Playground looks like an awesome, unique playground as our kids mature from the usual playground equipment and want to build, climb, and conquer more and more challenges, doesn’t it? And it looks like the kids are having a blast, right? Yeah, it is pretty awesome and the kids LOVED it, but oh yes, that’s right, we Americans have a hankering to sue people if we get a splinter or fall down and scrape our knees (whereas in Europe where such legal fights are not as common; PS, they boast more than 1000 such playgrounds throughout their continent compared to our literal handful). But I’ll choose to look at the positive: California has all three of our nation’s remaining adventure playgrounds, and I’m going to do my best to support the two that are closest to us so our kids don’t lose those also. (You can read a recent news report on Irvine’s challenge to save their own adventure playground here and follow along with their years-long, grass-roots efforts here).
Are you ready for your own adventure, RMT’ers?
Adventure Playground is located in Huntington Beach’s Central Park (enter from the Central Library parking lot) and is only open from mid-June through mid-August of each year. The closing date for the 2013 summer season is Friday August 9. Adult supervision is required and admission is $3 per child (children under two-years-old and adults are free of charge). Hours of operation are 10 a.m.-to-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday (closed Sunday). Play ends at 3:40 pm for cleanup. Picnics OK. You can read more rules and regulations here. For more information or to arrange an outing for a group of 10 children or more, please call (714) 842-7442 (or (714) 536-5486 when closed).
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