2019 Grants Challenge

Adventure Play in the Parks & Play in our Everyday!

Piloting a year long program of free weekly pop-up adventure playgrounds at LA County Parks for 1 to 3 month periods. During each site’s program we will hold free workshops for families and youth workers about supporting self-directed play in their community. This will include playwork philosophy, research, and methods for allowing children access to play which is not dictated by adults.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

LA County Parks and Recreation

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

We believe that every child has a right to play in a way that they themselves decide. Without goals, end products, or metrics set by an adult agenda. One of the best ways to make this happen is for children and families to play with each other over a sustained period of time. It helps to create a culture of playfulness and community solidarity.

One story stands out as an example of how our organization has opened space for such a culture. We have a family who has a son we will call "Jake". When Jake started coming to our sessions, he had a great time exploring the space, being outside, and playing alongside the other children.

One day, Jake seemed to get irritated with the others, kicking dirt at them, poking, or occasionally even shoving. His mom decided to take him home early. There was a message waiting for us soon after, apologizing for his behavior and assuming he wasn’t allowed back. Apparently, things like this had happened at other play spaces before. Jake is on the spectrum, and is processing his social interactions differently than some of his peers. We arranged a call with Jake’s mom to let her know that he was always welcome and we wanted him to come back. We also told her we would chat with our Houston friends at the Parish Adventure Playground dedicated to kids who are neurodiverse. They gave us great guidance on loose parts that could help Jake as he returned.

Shortly after, we had a playwork workshop and many of our parents attended including Jake’s mom. It was here where other parents, not knowing of our conversation, let Jake’s mom how much they loved Jake.

That was a year ago and Jake has been a regular in our program. The solidarity between Jake’s mom and the other parents has grown as well. These are the huge cultural frames that we are aiming to move. Though Jake has great days and still struggles on others, he and his mom know the community supports them no matter what. We want to encourage more children and their families to allow themselves to learn from each other. Jake needs access to this play and to others as much as they need to play with children like him. As one of our other parents said about Jake, “This child is a gift!”

Which of the PLAY metrics will your submission impact?​​

Access to open space and park facilities

Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play

Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

Antelope Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to PLAY?

With guidance from LA County Parks and Rec, we will identify 3 to 5 parks with a need for play opportunities in the 5th district. We will run 1 or 3 month long programs in late 2019 and ending late 2020. Aside from being our home, the 5th district has over 2 million people and is an expansive area of many communities and county parks.

Our lead playworker will work with each site on program implementation, length and time of year to run as well as discuss how best to serve the surrounding community. During site visits we’ll assess the space, get a sense of its relation to the surrounding community, and plan logistics including site storage, travel, workshop implementation and affordances for play and loose parts that offer the best play opportunities.

Once a site is assessed, a calendar will be created and marketing in English and/or most appropriate language to the community will be sent through local schools and Parks and Rec.

The program will hold weekly 3 hour long pop-up adventure playgrounds facilitated by one lead and 2 assistant playworkers. Pop-up adventure playgrounds include setting up a play space with “loose parts” such as boxes, tape, fabric, hoses, tires, buckets, etc. These materials will be replenished throughout the program as needed. Each pop-up is followed by a staff reflection on dynamics of the play event and ways to extend and support play in the next session. As much as possible, we want to involve the park staff into the play session and reflection so they can continue to consider their role in relation to children and play as well as gain a better understanding of how to create and or encourage a space for self-directed play for all ages.

Our play workshops have two sessions focusing on topics surrounding play. The first workshop is an intro to play concepts through playwork and the history of adventure playgrounds dating back to 1938. The second workshop focuses on playwork practice to create and hold space for our children to play with the lightest touch from adults. We cover proactive and inclusive language to use when working with children, how to assess play opportunities in a space and which materials will offer the most vibrant play opportunities. We hope to coordinate video Q&A’s with professional playworkers from around the world during the workshops!

Each site will have evaluation surveys for both the community and Parks and Rec staff to help drive any future programs and potential impacts on the community’s play and play space. We plan to interview participating families, children, and park staff for video documentation of the project and collect feedback on the program’s impact on the community. We will also support each park and staff after our program is over including professional development and exposure to adventure play and playwork practices. Our goal is to build a network of individuals who will create more self-directed play opportunities for all Angelenos.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Pilot project (testing a new idea on a small scale to prove feasibility)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

For us, success in this project is meeting these goals:

1. Bring out more repeat visitors to the sites over the program window

2. Inspire one or more of the sites we visit to continue the program or start a similar one.

3. Expose the immediate community and childcare workers to playwork philosophy and the importance of self-directed play for children.

4. Introduce new visitors to spaces and programs run by LA County Parks and Rec.

There will be several metrics that will help us measure the success of the project.

-Surveys will be given to participants before and after the program to measure their reaction to the project, as well as their desire for it to continue

-Participants will be counted for each session to measure the amount and also first time/repeat visits

-We will hold reflection sessions with our staff and park staff after each play session to discuss what happened and how we may want to alter our approach to have the best outcomes.

-We will meet with parks staff and leadership to explore ways that programs like this could continue in the future.

-We will interview participants about their experiences in the program for added feedback