NYC is flush with literally dozens of wonderful playgrounds. But even the best ones can feel a little stale after visit 823 — same slide, same sandbox, same crazy climbing structure. Good news! A new, ever-changing, kid-imagined and kid-built playground is popping up on Governors Island this summer, and it’s a must-do for families looking to change up the playground routine and let kids’ imaginations (and autonomy) run wild.

play ground

photo: play: ground

One Adult’s Trash…
You already know that an empty refrigerator box is infinitely more appealing to any child than a pristine, plastic superfort from a big box store; this play scape, dubbed “play:ground” and created in the tradition of what’s called an “adventure playground,” takes that concept to the nth degree.

With origins reaching as far back as the 1940s, adventure playgrounds are modeled after a junkyard, and let children shape their environment using an assortment of materials, tools, duct tape, water, dirt and things that others typically describe as trash.

The 5,000-square-foot adventure playground play:ground is coming to Governors Island on May 28, and the free form (and free) play space will be open from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on weekends to kids and families all summer long, through September 25.

rt-paly ground

photo: play: ground

The First Rule of play:ground: There Are No Rules
Ok, that’s not completely true — in fact, all play is supervised by trained playworkers, who are on hand to provide assistance when asked or needed and to make sure kids are safe.

But beyond that, it’s a kid-ruled space, where kids are free to self-organize, independently create, take chances and experiment. That might mean creating a fort out of pallets and hay bales, scribbling all over a box, crafting a see-saw from wood planks…really, anything a kid might dream up.


photo: play: ground

Live the Adventure This Summer!
If you know a child for whom one day of this free-form play would be a torturous tease, listen up: kids can also attend play:ground Summer Camp!

Open to children ages 7 to 13, play:ground NYC Sumer Camp Adventure runs weekly sessions from July 7 to August 19, and can be attended for as little as one week or as many as all six. Under the supervision of seasoned head playworker Morgan Leichter-Saxby of Pop-Up Adventure Play, campers will learn to work with hand tools such as saws and hammers, and use everything from planks of wood, old tires, discarded strollers, industrial wooden spools, crutches and more to craft whatever their imaginations can conjure.

It’s not all building and making. Campers will also have the opportunity to learn about gardening and animal care through a partnership with another Governors Island resident, Earth Matter. On Mondays and Fridays, campers can visit the Earth Matter site, which is home to a garden, as well as chickens and goats, to learn about caring for plants and animals.

Rates are $550 per week, with a 10% sibling discount, and financial aid is available on a first come, first served basis. Camper drop-off is at the Governors Island Manhattan Ferry Terminal. Click here to enroll.


play:ground on Governors Island
Weekends, May 28 – Sept. 25, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Governors Island

Has your family ever visited an Adventure Playground? Tell us about it in the comments!

— Mimi O’Connor