Berkeley’s Adventure Playground
|Zip line for 6 years and older at the Adventure Playground|
Get some more lumber and hold the C-clamp tight, will ya? If Mad Max was a kiddie movie, Berkeley’s Adventure Playground would be the neighborhood junkyard where kids with post-punk hairstyle pop up with hammers, clamps and nails to fix up your homemade bike and paint it red cuz red’s the only available color today. Then eventually kids would bring back the tools so they can pound on the exposed strings of a gutted piano or take a wild ride on the zip line above the sand. At 5pm, they’d either nail their creation to a climbing structure or destroy it before leaving. Or not.
|Drinking samurais at the Albany Bulb|
Every city needs an Adventure Playground, a place where kids can have fun in an unsafe environment and learn to take calculated risks. Yes, unsafe and that’s the groovy kicker. With nails lying around, recycled lumber, rubber tire swings, tons of splinter opportunities, saws handed out to the below-10-years-old crowd and metal scrap fashioned in Burning Man sculptures, the Adventure Playground is the anti-Pump it Up party place.
|The climbing gym/slide at Adventure Playground|
Dang, where I grew up in New Caledonia, my brothers and I built forts all the time. We climbed in trees with or without knot ropes. We chopped mimosa branches and used knives to sharpen arrows and make bows. We jumped across the stinky creek down from our house and sometimes ended up with scrapes (or a broken arm for my oldest brother). We roamed the local mangrove barefeet in the mud to fish crabs fed on sewage waters downstream from the local hospital (mom was wise and set them aside so we wouldn’t eat them for dinner).
Living in the Bay Area is not like living in the tropics because the weather’s quite cooler. Hence my hiking and general outdoors obsession, I guess. It allows me to get my girls out, something I couldn’t live without. As for safety, I try to push my girls to do stuff that protective parents might disapprove of but which I think, prepares them to kickass in the outside world. Sort of Free Range Kids style. Hence the Adventure Playground birthday party.
I heard about it from my friend Deborah who organized her son’s 8-year-old’s birthday party there last year. I patiently waited a year and then organized my girl’s 7-year old’s birthday party here. According to the website, the playground is designed for ages 7 and above though younger kids are welcome closely watched by parents. So for her 7 autumns, my young trooper invited a mix of boy and girl friends and the party was on. Yes, girls like to tinker too!
|A little parent help for the young’uns|
After the kids arrived, a staff member from the Adventure Playground gave them a little prep speech about what they could and could not do, how to use the basic tools (hammer, saw, C-clamp), and small challenges to earn their tools. After 5 minutes, we unleashed the kids. First, they were like “what do we do?” It’s tough to decide on what to do when you can do anything. Some ran to the zip line. Others explored the 1-acre playground and poked around.
An hour later, every child was engaged in his or her creative project and almost all left with a completed boat, plane or car. A bird house was nailed on a fort. Parents helped, others just watched. It was really cool to see how far the imagination of kids stretched. How some insisted on using big nails for small projects while others painted their sculpture and themselves too. Nobody was hurt. The “conventional” playground next door is a great place to eat cake and keep running around after the Adventure Playground is closed.
Unleash your little free spirits!
Berkeley Marina (off I-80)
Open Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm. Closed if raining.
Closed-toe shoes and clothes that can get dirty
Free for 4 children or less accompanied by a responsible adult
Kids 7 years and older can be dropped off for $10 for up to 3 hours (don’t forget to sign the waiver)
All other details are here.