Swings and slides will get little bodies moving, but what about little minds? Add in scrap wood, ropes, rocks, tree limbs, water and dirt—it’s a whole new world. Unstructured spaces are the latest trend in playgrounds for good reason: At these creative, freewheeling spots, kids are encouraged to think outside of the sandbox. Flip through our slideshow below to discover the coolest open-ended playscapes out there.

Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone – Ithaca, Ny

At the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone inside the Ithaca Children’s Garden, when it comes to unstructured, natural play—anything goes. There are locust logs, straw bales, river clay, cardboard, sand, shovels and other materials, all of which invite little explorers to play, destruct, work together, solve problems and have fun. A recent addition the the garden, the Anarchy Zone is a combo of nature play, city farms and adventure playgrounds. Kids have so much fun digging and moving and making, they don’t realize they are working, too!

Good to know: There are 11 other exhibits at Ithaca Children’s Garden!  

Cost: Free

Online: ithacachildrensgarden.org/hands-on-nature-anarchy-zone

photo: Ithaca Children's Garden via Facebook

Is there an unstructured play space near you? Share with us in the comments below!

—Gabby Cullen