When Good Things Happen

Originally posted in PlayGroundology

Kids and parents in Nova Scotia, Canada are giving two thumbs up to a couple of the province’s new public play spaces. Middle Musquoidoboit’s Nature Play Space and The Dingle Natural Playground in Halifax make the natural world more accessible to kids.

The scale and scope of these two projects are a significant development for what is still a relatively new design aesthetic in these parts. The variety of installations and the age ranges they cater to set Middle Musquoidoboit and The Dingle apart from other natural playscapes in the province. Jubilee Park in Bridgetown, continues to delight the pre-school crowd and the Evergreen organization is working with a few individual schools to incorporate natural play areas as part of the recreation mix.

Middle Musquoidoboit’s Nature Play Space will be our first stop. A subsequent post will share some of the fun and excitement of The Dingle playscape’s opening weekend.


In Middle Musquoidoboit behind a thin stand of trees there’s a clearing that on opening day buzzes with feverish excitement. Kids are zigging and zagging like hummingbirds from one installation to the next – ponds, slides, a fire tower, sandpits, a nest, a bear den, a tunnel through a small hillock and a personal favourite, a vintage three-seater Flinstone-mobile (see photo gallery here).

Tucked away in one corner is a 15 foot long pit partially filled with water that’s already churned brown. The sloping sides get muddier the closer one gets to the waterline. This is the place that holds the greatest promise of transforming white t-shirts each kid was given on arrival into authentic 100% organic dirt fabric.

The mud kitchen is an eleventh hour addition to this rootsy wonderland. Middle Musquoidoboit grandmas are the driving force behind this get grimy zone. They gathered up all the equipment – pots, pans, containers, spoons, shovels, pails, cupboards and yes, the kitchen sink – to set up a deliciously fun way to create imaginary delicacies with the most versatile of ingredients, dirt, water and mud. This open air, community kitchen, where there are never too many cooks, adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the overall ambience.

Can you say Am-Phi-Bi-An? Frog and salamander prospecting is the main attraction at a kid-sized pond bursting with green along its banks. On a second trip to the Nature Play Space the Girl Power Posse, my two girls and a couple of their friends, fan out and put the multi acre playscape through its paces.

On that occasion the pond is the place to be. Getting up close and personal with frogs proves to be a heady elixir that pulls the girls back time and again to try their luck with the dipping nets.

At another popular installation, scaling tree trunk towers presents an opportunity for airborne derring-do. The ascent is tough, it’s difficult finding the right footholds and hand grips on the vertical climb. Standing at the precipice, I can only imagine the quickened pace of pounding hearts. Then the launch and a surge of adrenalin in that split second before impact.


The playscape offers numerous opportunities for kids to test and push their limits, to assess risk and challenge their physical abilities. These activities help build confidence, develop judgment and, when all goes well, can contribute to creating a reservoir of courage, resourcefulness and resilience.

This is a running, leaping, flying kind of place with wows at every turn. There are hills and rocks to climb, dirt and sand galore, small animals in their native habitat to catch and release, trees, grassy expanses and a welcome absence of motorized vehicles. This is a place to move and a place to play in the heart of Nova Scotia, Canada’s Ocean Playground.


The Nature Play Space is a project led by the Department Of Natural Resources’ Natural Resources Education Centre. Two of the Centre’s team members, Amelia Kennedy and Sara Hill, were inspired to create a natural play space after attending an environmental educators conference with participants and presenters from throughout North America.

They left the conference with an aspirational goal that took form with considerable community engagement and sweat equity from volunteers in addition to support from their provincial government department. Two community build days, donations of labour and materials and invaluable advice were key ingredients in the success of the project. Nature aficionado, designer, trail developer and heavy equipment operator Garnet McLaughlin of Cobequid Consulting gets a huge shout out for his contributions.

So what good things are happening?

  • variety is being added to public play stock in Nova Scotia
  • communities are being engaged in the development and build processes
  • community mobilization and participation resulted in a very moderately priced playscape
  • media are covering the story
  • parents are talking about risk amongst each other and with their kids
  • a home grown design for natural playscapes has been developed that can benefit other communities
  • people are having thoughtful conversations about physical activity levels and the value of independent play
  • every kid who visits is getting a huge dose of Vitamin N

Our two visits to date resonated with excitement, laughter and an appreciation of the natural world. We’ll be regulars enjoying the leisurely drive there and back through Nova Scotia’s heartland.

For those readers who are curious about the pronunciation of Musquoidoboit click play below and listen to the GirlPower Nature Play Chorale who at the end of their song nail it.

First Contact

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve had the good fun of participating and helping to organize some loose part play events and it’s been a very enjoyable experience. Thanks to all the adults who played a role in making them happen and thanks to the kids who showed us what play is all about. Here are a few thoughts and photos from my PlayGroundology blog on the loose parts bric à brac….


Loose parts play in public spaces is not yet commonplace in Halifax, Canada, PlayGroundology‘s home turf. When public play happenings, starring kid encounters with the bric à brac of ropes, tires, fabric, boxes, etc., do occur they’re awash in magical aha! moments at a somewhat more accelerated rate than in places where this form of play is more on the map.

Dragon alertDragon alert – Looseparts-apalooza, community led play from Adventure Play YHZ – Findlay Centre, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – Canada

Most kids here have never seen anything of the like, a conglomeration of matériels gathered with the express purpose of fueling child-led play. First contact moments – when kids meet loose parts play – run a range of reactions: bemusement, tentativeness, to full throttled exuberant exploration.

DSC06199Play Summit 2014, loose parts event presented by Assemble and Baltic Street Adventure Playground – Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland

My evidence-based experience in…

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Get Your Play Masks On

When children dance to the rhythm of play, the skies light up like no tomorrow. Throw in the wonder of costumes and now it’s a festival of smiles. For true, play is the default for big hearts in small bodies, the beat of discovery.

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Thanks to all the parents who stopped by and let their kids go to explore in the late October green of Findlay’s loose parts meadow. Thanks to the BOO! Patrol who created a great afternoon for everyone and let the Adventure Players tag along.

Come and join us at our next Looseparts-apalooza and bring some of your own odds and ends to mix up the recipe. Sign up for the blog here (right hand column) and like us on FB here.

Box of Dreams

By the way, did we mention there will be BOXES at the loose parts play event this Sunday, October 25 between 1 and 3 p.m. at the green space behind the Findlay Centre? Yes, we will have plenty of boxes. You know those magnet type objects that the younger set frequently finds more fascinating than the contents they hold…

Some everyday materials undergo a metamorphosis when kids get their hands on them. Seemingly ordinary stuff becomes imbued with a magical quality embodying so much more than its original design purpose. Think boxes, glue, paper, twigs and sticks, cellotape. They are the universal ingredients for fashioning new worlds, the raw materials that fuel imagination, foundation blocks in the architecture of childhood.

And of course they are FUN.

As a staple of childhood, it’s not surprising that boxes had a recurring presence in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. I’ve always been a big fan and nearly 20 years after the strip’s final syndication, I still get a great laugh from Calvin’s antics. I don’t think Calvin ever saw a box he didn’t like. His energy and out of the box shenanigans would be a great addition at any loose parts play event. He could be one of the kids in charge of supersizing the excitement quotient.


If your kids love boxes, they’re sure to enjoy this pop-up loose parts play event brought to you by Adventure Play YHZ at the green space behind Findlay. Parents may want to prepare for the possibility that they’ll need to cart home a transmogrifier, or similar such creation.

Sign up to receive new Adventure Play YHZ posts by email. Check the top right hand corner of the page.


Adventure Play YHZ Invites You to A Loose Parts-apalooza

Welcome to the inaugural post for Adventure Play YHZ.

We’re putting on a loose parts adventure on October 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the green space behind the Findlay Community Centre in Dartmouth. Not sure what ‘loose parts’ are? Take a look at the story below (click through on the image) from an event organized by a couple of our members in conjunction with the Youth Running Series last year at Sackville’s Wear Pink Track.

cropped-loose-parts.jpgLoose Parts Unplug and Play – Run, Jump, Build

Another member recently completed a master’s degree and in the course of her research has confirmed that loose parts play offers numerous benefits. A pamphlet she produced, excerpted below, provides some answers to the ‘why loose parts’ question.
Why Loose Parts

Did you know that loose parts are becoming a feature in some of the EXCEL programs in Halifax schools? Some of our members are involved in these activities too. A longitudinal study in one Australian school has firmly established the benefits of loose parts play in an educational setting.

All hail loose parts. They are the jazz of play bebopping the kids along in a wonderfall of spontaneity.


We also have a member who operates an incredible daycare space in Halifax and another who runs the city’s only Forest School. Guess what, they incorporate loose parts into their daily play too. This is becoming more and more popular in childcare settings throughout the world as this post from Let The Children Play recounts.

090519 001Source: Let The Children Play

Well enough talk, we’re getting ready for loose parts in the green space behind the Findlay Community Centre. We hope you’ll pop by and see what the hullabaloo is about. Your kids will thank you….

Loose Parts - Milk CratesStaging Zone for Findlay Centre Loose Parts-apalooza

By the way, why don’t you slip over and like us on our Adventure Play YHZ Facebook Page too and while you’re at it share this post with your social networks!

For more information on the loose parts play event, leave a comment here on the blog.

Hold on tight, it’s gonna be a great afternoon for kids at Findlay, Halifax Rec is organizing a Hallowe’en blast – the Boo Bash….

Findlay Halloween Party Poster_final proof_Oct. 15