Come out and Play

There’s a new term popping up in the world. It’s playborhood and you don’t have to contemplate it long to understand it’s roots. The notion is that by creating walkable urban spaces, people stay healthier. They interact with each other more often. They move. Perhaps, they are even inclined towards greater civic engagement. And yes, they are playful.IMG_7261

On a cold Canadian weekend a couple of weeks ago, my husband and son were playing in Montreal – and they weren’t alone. Despite the fact that it was freezing and close to midnight, the street was full of people enjoying a new city placemaking delight.

The site of the play is the Place Des Festivals in Montreal where an innovative public art display called Impulse encourages passersby to climb up and take a ride. This new art installation is a set of illuminated seesaws that emit sounds when they are moved creating a musical street atmosphere. The project is a collaboration between the lighting design firm, CS Design and the Toronto-based urban infrastructure firm, Lateral Office and won the 6th annual Luminothérapie event this past summer.IMG_7265

Throughout the world, there is a large scale recognition of the value of unstructured outdoor play for children. It is for the betterment of health and it increases the likelihood of happiness. In fact, research indicates that it’s even critical for brain development. But, does it stop with childhood?

Dr. Stuart Brown head of the National Institute for Play says, “Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.” The outcomes, according to Brown extend way beyond pleasure. Just as play increases resiliency in children, adult play can help build community, keep the mind alert, and is a terrific way to engage with friends and family.

And then there’s the other thing and it IS that pleasure principle. It turns out that we’re a lot more enjoyable to be around if we have a healthy dose of playtime in our lives.

It’s a proverb that we need to exercise in order to keep Jack from getting dull. How do you do it? Is there public art in your area that encourages play?

Leave a comment


  1. Sally

     /  February 14, 2016

    I love this concept, Tammy. In my neighborhood we have a lovely bike-walking path that leads to a park with a mile long walkway around and on the walk are many stations with very fun exercise stations . It is wonderful but we need teeter totters as well!
    Lovely article.

    • I was just reading that there is an adult play night at the Children’s Museum next Friday. Sounds fun?

  2. I really love this. Illuminated seesaws would be good for Tucson with summer nights cool enough for kids and adults to go out to play. Don’t see seesaws much anymore. I think they have been deemed “too dangerous.” Gosh, a kid might fall!

    • It’s a wonder we are alive, isn’t it? When I think of my school playground; swings with chains so long, I could kick the clouds, a whirly bird that’s use was evident in the number of blisters on the palms of my hands, slippery slides that were long and steep. It’s worthy of some research, you know. I want these for AZ!

  3. I love the idea of illuminated see saws that SING! Though perhaps not at midnight with temps in the teens.

    I expect that DAYS interspersed with PLAY are good for what ails us!

  4. I love the idea of the musical see saws. I would so give them a go!

  5. WONDERFUL. I love this. One of the big regrets of the dying is that they didn’t play more.

  6. Reblogged this on lucindalines and commented:
    This is so interesting. As a former physical education teacher, this makes lots of sense to me. Thanks for posting it and hope you don’t mind me reblogging it

    • Thank you so much for the reblog! And what’s funny is that in my original draft, I went down the path of talking about how physical education programs get cut and then thought I went over the top. Thanks for grounding me!

  7. I love this! And it would be so useful for creating communities, which sadly we have gotten too far away from!

  8. Really it can start much smaller – it would be fun to experiment with different ideas like this.


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