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The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. Three boys lounge in the only unbroken chairs around it; they are the oldest ones here, so no one complains.The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek. One of them turns on the radio—Shaggy is playing (Honey came in and she caught me red-handed, creeping with the girl next door)—as the others feel in their pockets to make sure the candy bars and soda cans are still there.But back then we would get up to all sorts of mischief.”, I have memories of childhood so different from the way my children are growing up that sometimes I think I might be making them up, or at least exaggerating them.I grew up on a block of nearly identical six-story apartment buildings in Queens, New York.Today, these playgrounds are so out of sync with affluent and middle-class parenting norms that when I showed fellow parents back home a video of kids crouched in the dark lighting fires, the most common sentence I heard from them was “This is insane.” (Working-class parents hold at least some of the same ideals, but are generally less controlling—out of necessity, and maybe greater respect for toughness.) That might explain why there are so few adventure playgrounds left around the world, and why a newly established one, such as the Land, feels like an act of defiance.
(In the two years since it opened, no one has been injured outside of the occasional scraped knee.) Here’s the list of benefits for fire: “It can be a social experience to sit around with friends, make friends, to sing songs to dance around, to stare at, it can be a co-operative experience where everyone has jobs.At the Land, spontaneous fires are a frequent occurrence.The park is staffed by professionally trained “playworkers,” who keep a close eye on the kids but don’t intervene all that much.That, she said, is what builds self-confidence and courage.“Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child.
Other than some walls lit up with graffiti, there are no bright colors, or anything else that belongs to the usual playground landscape: no shiny metal slide topped by a red steering wheel or a tic-tac-toe board; no yellow seesaw with a central ballast to make sure no one falls off; no rubber bucket swing for babies.