When two NYC parents reminisced about their childhoods, they were compelled to offer their children the same joyful unadulterated play that they had experienced growing up but discovered the absence for child-led play spaces in their communities. play:groundNYC was formed with a dedicated core group of volunteers in 2015. Starting with pop-up adventure play days in New York City parks, play:groundNYC offered cardboard, tape, fabric, paints, rope and other loose part materials so that children could play freely, accessing imagination, creation and even destruction without judgement. As the pop-ups acquired a following, play:groundNYC was invited to Governors Island to host an enormous two-day play event. The ideas around adventure play began to resonate with more and more New Yorkers, who expressed the profound impacts that adventure play had on their children through just a few short hours of exploring, building, and running around under the watchful yet relaxed eye of the trained playworkers. Parents and teachers from all walks of life, neighborhoods, and socioeconomic backgrounds continue to reach out to play:ground to express their gratitude and need for a permanent adventure play space, a framework to learn more about playwork, and an advocate for children’s right to play freely. And so, play:groundNYC partnered with the Trust for Governors Island and in the Spring of 2016 opened The Yard - a 50,000 square-foot adventure playground. It is a place where kids can be in control, build and destroy, and take physical and emotional risks; a place where kids are not assessed nor judged, a place to experiment, a place to be a kid. It acts as a seasonal site for a summer camp, school field trips, playwork trainings, and play time that is free and open to the public. From then on, play:groundNYC became a physical and online resource for parents and educators interested in learning more about and creating greater opportunities for self-directed outdoor play in their communities.
play:groundNYC is a non-profit organization advocating for young people’s rights by providing playworker-run environments that encourage risk-taking, experimentation and freedom through self directed play. We operate The Yard on Governors Island - New York City's only adventure playground - and work with communities to establish their own neighborhood playgrounds and play initiatives. By providing professional development and consulting services, and training a new generation of playworkers, play:groundNYC is reimagining the urban environment as a place for all children to play, create and explore, regardless of demographic status.play:groundNYC works to improve the state of play for children in New York City. In doing so, we are addressing the major physical and mental health problems being faced by so many children growing up in the urban environment. Over 8,000 New York City children played at The Yard for free in 2017, with the majority coming from Manhattan - specifically the FiDi area and District 1 schools. This year the numbers will be even higher. As the city’s only adventure playground, The Yard provides a unique opportunity for self-directed play in an otherwise mediated, tightly managed city. A healthy society needs healthy children. Healthy children need to play.