The Imagination Playground, near the South Street Seaport

Crowd gathers around blue foam building blocks at the imagination playground in NYC

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.

View from above of the Imagination Playground in New York City with a circular walkway with wrought iron handrails


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 Imagination Playground resembles a ship from afar with umbrellas for visitors to get some shade


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: 


A child pushes a wheelbarrel full of blue foam building blocks at the Imagination Playground in New York City

The wheelbarrows were a big hit, and excellent for hauling materials from one construction site to another.  



The Imagindation Playgrounds sound garden full of red piping materials with yellow horns to create various noises

The Sound Garden was great for secret messages and such. Also, that green turf? The spongiest, bounciest such surface we've ever seen. 


Families relax in the hammocks and children play on the rope ladders all hung from the Imagination Playground walkway

Hammocks and rope ladders in a quiet, shady section.



The water area of the Imagination Playground lets kids play with hoses or various sizes and water pressure

Lots of hoses and pipes and tubing make the water area less about splashing, and more about creating.



Blue foam building blocks allow kids to create structures and interact with other children at the Imagination Playground

 Collaboration was key on the larger structures. 


Kids dig in the sand to create tunnels and water channels at NYC's Imagination Playground

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.  


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