Hudson Lab School is proud to be part of the growing adventure playground movement. Modeled after a junkyard, adventure playgrounds allow kids to teach themselves and control the content and direction of their play. The adults stand back.

I first learned about adventure playgrounds in an article entitled "The Overprotected Kid" in The Atlantic. As someone inspired by Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the idea of a junkyard teeming with kids exploring the extreme edges of safety made me cringe. Overriding that feeling, however, was sadness for what our overprotected kids have lost: The thrill of being left alone to explore the world and lead their own messy adventures. 

Hudson Lab School’s adventure playground—known as our Wild Playspace—was made possible thanks to Bobby and Sandro who felled a leaning tree and John McCann-Doyle, a playworker from Governors Island’s play:ground who hung a fabric swing, buried stumps in the ground, and left a variety of fun and fanciful loose parts. Last term, our students added a tipi, a cafe kitchen, a book nook and a pallet swing that they designed and built themselves.

More than just the physical space, we give kids the time to play because play is serious business. Play is vital to a child’s development. It boosts cognition and concentration, and according to the World Economic Forum, play equips children “with the skills necessary to tackle humanity’s future, such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving. To be a superhero is to lead; to host a teddy for tea is to organize; to build a fort is to innovate: to play is to learn.”

So every day in rain, shine, or snow, our kids head outside for a quick mindfulness meeting and an hour of play with our kind-hearted playworker Mo who trusts them, watches their progress and learning, and supports their play without intervening.