If you’re convinced M.C. Hammer actually penned the lyric “hammer time” with your kiddo in mind, then you’ve got to check out the Adventure Playground on Mercer Island. It adds a literal spin to the hip hop song phenom with real tools, real wood and a real building experience for curious carpenters of all ages. So strap on that tool belt and set a construction start date for this awesome adventure.

Kids building bridge Advenutre Playground

Not Your Average Playground
Ditch any preconceived notions of a playground before hitting this one, because the Adventure Playground is redefining the experience one toolbox at a time. It’s an ever-changing carpentry wonderland that’s completely kid-built, poised to capture the imagination. Set back in the woods, the scene looks like Hobbits with two-by-fours have been busily building since the park opened in late June. Wooden structures pop up around every turn and emerge on the horizon with each step you take deeper into the forest. What’s been created so far will surely inspire your lil’ builder to add her own touches or modify a current design. In fact, the organic, continually-evolving nature of this park is part of its cool-appeal. Each day the park is open, new structures pop up simply by adding, removing or connecting to the existing forts, bridges, ladders, ramps and swings. What’s constructed between now and the end of the building season (in late September) is completely left up to the kids. Builder-ific!

Boy at wood pile Adventure Playground

Got Tools?
Each mini builder checks out an official toolbox complete with real tools! In it you’ll find a hammer or two, a tape measure, small hand saw, screwdriver, work gloves, goggles, and plenty of nails, plus hard hats all around for the minis. What they build and how they do it is left up to them. But there are volunteer staff that work the gate and periodically walk through the park handing out nails and answering questions in case the Littles need help bringing their vision to life. There’s a lumber supply pile just past the entrance and one set back a ways that supplies everyone for the day. In it, practicing master builders will find boards, large pieces of plywood, PVC piping, and smaller pieces of scrap wood, all for the taking and creating. This is one seriously hands-on experience!

Boy hammering board Adventure Playground

If You Build It…
They will come, and come in droves. Since the park has limited toolboxes (and hours), it’s possible you will have to wait to get your hands on one when you arrive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t wander the workspace and explore others’ creations, then plan your own to pass the time. We recommend getting there right at open, or about an hour before the Adventure Playground closes to minimize a possible wait. And weekends are busier than weekdays, so take advantage if you’re able.

Girl hammering Adventure Playground

Make a Day of It
The Adventure Playground isn’t the only cool thing happening at Deane’s Children Park. Pack a lunch and plan to spend the day on the island, taking full advantage of the playground, swings and a small climbing rock that are part of the park spread. There’s a large covered picnic shelter too, so the minis can grab some grub and take a break before heading over to build the afternoon away. This is one spot you could definitely occupy for quite a few hours without running out of activities!

Picnic Area at Adventure Playground

Good to Know
1) Don’t forget close-toed shoes for this adventure (you too, mom and dad). Real tools mean real danger for little toesies, so keep ‘em covered to stay safe.

2) Parents, plan to pull up a log or bring a blanket because seating is au natural in this wooded play area. The upside? It’s a nice cool shady spot on a sunny day.

3) This is a stay and play place for kidlets and parents. So bring a book (or your phone) or plan to participate in your little builder’s adventure.

4) The park is weather dependent, so call ahead (206-275-7609) to make sure it’s open on rainy days.

Adventure Playground
Deane’s Children Park
5500 Island Crest Way
Mercer Island, Wa
206-275-7609 (Mercer Island Community Center)
Online: mercergov.org/Page.asp?NavID=2768

Hours: Tues., Thurs., & Sun. 1 p.m.-4 p.m. through Aug. 28; Sun. only 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 8-29
Cost: Free, with donations accepted to support Mercer Island Parks and Recreation

Do you plan on visiting Adventure Playground? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

–Allison Sutcliffe, words and pictures