Playing in Playgrounds

Spring is coming soon, and with Spring, comes playgrounds. With two very active, rambunctious boys, I spend A LOT of time in playgrounds. I love playgrounds – how they are free and spark both imagination and physical movement, how they create community amongst parents who are generally relaxed and don’t have a lot to do except chat with each other. I love how children are uninhibited on playgrounds, feel free to move, jump, climb and leap about. My son is the happiest when he is moving, and full of joy when he is playing in playgrounds. I am blessed to live in a neighborhood with many playgrounds within walking distance of our house, and we make full use of all of these playgrounds. Norway School is the closest playground, so we go there when we have just an hour before supper, when I know my son needs to run off some steam. “Froggie park” has a great splashpad, so this is a summer favourite. And of course, Kew/Castle Park is excellent with the castle (that my son has now figured out how to climb into the middle) and the potential for imagination games with the boats and hiding spaces. I have probably clocked over 500 hours in Kew/Castle Park over the past 7 years.

Besides Kew/Castle Playground, my other favourite playgrounds are:

Dufferin Grove Park – hands down! This playground is in the west end of Toronto (Dufferin and College), so far from our house, but we love it so much that we are happy to make the trek to go here. Dufferin Grove Park is an amazing example of successful community development, where residents were extremely active in reclaiming this public park, which used to be unused and scary with crime and drug dealing. Residents have worked tirelessly with city officials to vision and implement that vision into a community-based park. Residents continue to be extremely active in the park, and there are all kinds of community activities that take place at Dufferin Grove. There has even been scholarly research done on the volunteer engagement model at Dufferin Grove, as a best practice. There are so many wonderful elements of Dufferin Grove Park, but what I love the most is the digging area. They have dug out a giant area of dirt and rocks and wood, and they have water streaming through. They have child-sized shovels and watering cans, and my son has spent hours upon hours digging and carrying water, making rivers and making dams, hard at work.

-Toronto Island – Franklins Children’s Garden – a great example of integrating imaginative play with movement. My son also loves this playground, as it has the Franklin characters built into the playground. Lots of fun!

-Montreal – Salamander Park on Mont Royal is amazing! We have also spent hours here, it is beautiful because the playground is located on the mountain, and it is designed in a unique way to encourage children’s motor and cognitive development. It is a visually beautiful playground, and different from any other playground I have ever visited.

All this writing about playgrounds makes me wish I was a kid! Of course, there are now Adult Playgrounds that I might try to check out when I next next in New York! Wouldn’t this be a great stress-buster? I wonder if I would feel inhibited trying this out, or maybe not? Maybe I could let go and ‘be a kid’ for an hour or so.

Here are some amazing playgrounds from around the world! I hope to visit some of these in my lifetime!

Mapping as Storytelling

Aside

I have always loved maps. I remember being a young girl, maybe eight or nine years old, and following along a road map on long road trips with my father. I remember loving the challenge of locating markers on the map, like a river or a bridge, and then seeing it in reality. I love the stories that maps tell, and the recognition that we are always somewhere. We exist in relation to the land under our feet, and this relationship is symbiotic. We change based on the place and space where we are, and place changes based on who is taking up space.

On that note, I’d like to share some of my favourite maps that I’ve discovered lately. The first ones are Toronto-centred, and each one tells a unique story through the map, about this city I love and am constantly learning about:

-The Harbourfront 9 Rivers Project tells a story of the rivers that feed into Toronto, giving life to the urban life we live. I have always been drawn to water, and I choose to live within walking distance to our lake, which anchors me. In such a big city, we can easily forget about the natural world, and this map helps me to remember.

-This is an amazing map that tells the historical story of immigration in Toronto. You can actually pinpoint a specific neighborhood area within Toronto and then move the timeline marker to see who was immigrating to that area at the specific time.

-This historical mapping project is my favourite! They have scanned in Toronto maps from different 1818 till now, from UofT Archives, Toronto Public Library, Archives of Canada etc, so you can move the timeline marker to see a specific neighborhood at a specific year in history. From this, I can see that my specific street didn’t exist at all until around 1913. I love the actual maps, the drawing and the historical feel to this site.

 There are also some fascinating world maps, that tell interesting stories – check out this site. My favourite maps on this site are the maps comparing countries where people have highest versus lowest emotions and feel the most/least loved. Who knew that people in the Philipines are #1 in feeling the most amount of love and emotions? I also found the global map of smoking rates around the world quite fascinating, which shows that Russia has by far the highest smoking rate and Ethiopia has one of the lowest. What I find interesting about this map, is that this is one of the only health factors that I can identify where poorer countries fare better (smoke less) than richer countries. I hadn’t thought about that until I saw this map – on a global scale, smoking is a disease of the rich.  

I’ll leave you on a lighter note, with some sillier maps here. Some of these maps are downright silly, but I do personally love the mapping of the 7 Deadly Sins onto the American map. It reminds me of the hilarious book by Dan Savage – “Skipping Towards Gomorrah”, which is a great read, exploring the 7 deadly sins in America. 

Mapping is a form of visual story telling, from the central lens of place and space. I hope you’ve enjoyed these maps and the stories they tell.