The Imagination Playground, near the South Street Seaport
Just opened downtown, right next door to the South Street Seaport, The Imagination Playground lives up to superstar designer David Rockwell's promise to create a space for New York City kids that would "break all the normal rules." We stopped by last Saturday, and never have we seen so many little kids so happily and completely engaged in what can only be described as manual labor. They were digging ditches and hauling foam "rebar". They were installing intricate plumbing systems and swabbing the decks. They were winching and raking and sweeping and building and demolishing and heave-ho-ing and having an absolute, total blast.
What makes the Imagination Playground different than most is its emphasis of free-form play. There are no swings here, or any traditional climbing appararti, and the only slide offers just a short ride, albeit a very cool, tube-y one. Instead there are hoses and plugs and wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels and brooms, and, most popular, hundreds of big, blue, oddly-shaped construction materials made from a dense, germ-resistant foam.
The landscape of the Imagination Playground in NYC is many-leveled and encourages exploration, with cozy spots, crowd scenes, lots of shade and seating for adults, and a wide open space in the middle. Vaguely ship-like in its shape–the nautical allusions here, unsurprisingly, are many–the playground is divided into two sections, one featuring water (bubbling up from countless holes into which hoses can screwed and unscrewed; cascading down ramps which, at stepped intervals, can be dammed); the other filled with sand (for digging and building and dropping onto from the rings and pulley-ed cables above). All in all, this is a terrific place for small children: great for the locals, obviously, but also a true destination playground for families all over town.
Here are a few more images from our visit:
The wheelbarrows were a big hit, and excellent for hauling materials from one construction site to another.
The Sound Garden was great for secret messages and such. Also, that green turf? The spongiest, bounciest such surface we've ever seen.
Hammocks and rope ladders in a quiet, shady section.
Lots of hoses and pipes and tubing make the water area less about splashing, and more about creating.
Collaboration was key on the larger structures.
Very, very, very busy.
Imagination Playground NYC Details
The Imagination Playground is located at Burling Slip, on John Street between Front and South Streets, one block south of the South Street Seaport. During the summer the Imagination Playground is open everyday from 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.; once schools starts the hours change to 2:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more information, please see the Imagination Playground website, here.