A construction playground – Where kids build their own play structures with real tools
During this summer vacation, my kids did one week of summer camp on the “Bauspielplatz”, which could be translated with the words “Construction Playground”. They had a wonderful time there and I think, the pedagogical concept of this playground is so great, it is definitely worth sharing some info about it. It is part of the municipal youth work in the child friendly city Regensburg.
Kids are builders and want to construct
Kids love to build something. They want to be creative and shape their environment. When I was a kid, there was hardly anything my friends and I liked more, than building little playhouses or forts in the forest or our backyard. My favorite toy was my swiss army pocketknife, just because I could use it for being creative, for making and building so many things with it. We would be out in the forest all day, just once in a while come home to go get some more materials like ropes and tools and grab a snack and then be gone again until dinner time.
The benefits of experiencing such play opportunities were, that we learned to be creative, to figure things out, we were given the opportunity of failing, trying again and not giving up until our planned fort was standing. We learned to cooperate, to visualize things, to be patient, to concentrate and so much more.
So when my kids turned 5 we gave them each their own pocket knife and a training on how to use it. Fortunately, we have a big natural yard and can provide them with tools and wood and bushes and many opportunities for building things and being creative. Over the years, that’s, what my kids spent most of their leisure time with: building little hideaways behind and under bushes, on trees, carving, etc. or playing in the forest close to our house.
Unfortunately, for various reasons today many children don’t have the opportunity for such free, creative and independent play anymore. Many children don’t have access to big natural backyards or forests. More and more parents are nervous about the risks of letting a child handle tools, so instead of teaching them to handle tools safely some don’t allow their kids to use tools at all.
The construction playground in the City of Regensburg is a place where today’s children are given the opportunity to experience this kind of free and creative play.
What is the construction playground?
The construction playground is an outdoor place where children come to play outside and can built their own play structures.
The playground is open to children and teens from ages 8 to 14 and it is supervised by two professionals with pedagogical (social worker) and carpenter degrees. The kids can participate in the program free of charge. Unlike other playgrounds in our city, kids can only visit the playground during opening hours, when the staff is on site. The staff is teaching the children to properly use the tools and provides a setting, in which the kids are allowed to plan, build and play as independently as possible. There are clear rules and structures on the playground that serve the safety of all participants. The children are taught to act respectfully with each other and the staff and to handle the materials and tools carefully.
When the children arrive for the first time, they get a training on how to properly use real tools. After this training, they are allowed to borrow tools like real saws, hammers, nails, etc. as well as wood for building their own constructions. The kids are supervised on the playground, but on normal opening days they can come and leave the playground independently. During vacation times the team also organizes vacation day camps in which kids can spend the whole week on the construction playground in a steady group. They come in the morning and leave in the late afternoon.
The site is almost one acre big and located right next to a public youth center of the city. A bit more than half of the area is covered with a small forest with trees and bushes for free play. The “construction area” is a lawn on which the kids can built there houses and other constructions. There also is a fire pit and the staff makes an open camp fire with the kids every day. The tools are stored in a container and there is a second living container with a restroom on site as well.
The construction playground is part of the municipal youth work of the City of Regensburg and run by the society of “Regensburger Eltern” a nonprofit organization. The City of Regensburg created the terrain and entrusted it to the organization for the use of this facility. The city also provides some of the funds necessary to run the playground. Additional funds come for example from donations.
I could go on and on, about how great this playground is. But I think the videos created by the facility speak more than thousand words. So I want to encourage you to check out the videos they put on youtube.
A summer camp during corona?
Well, some of you might think, who can she send her kids to summer camp during corona times? First of all, when my kids went to the camp, we had zero Covid_19 cases in my city within the last seven days. That is why our politicians allowed the facilities of our municipal youth work to open again under certain corona safety rules. The kids were only in a small group and outdoors all the time. Children with contact to Covid patients or Covid Symptoms within the last 14 days were not allowed to the playground. They were social distancing and whenever they could not stay 6 feet apart or had to use the restrooms they were wearing their face masks. Everyone brought their own lunch and the tools were disinfected before the next person could use it. After months of homeschooling my kids so much needed some form of social contact, some way of getting out of the house and a change of scenery and we parents – well we kind of needed a break, too.
So bottom line: It was a great week, my kids loved it and we all stayed healthy.
You can find further info about the construction playground here on it’s homepage. However, it’s in German…