In the last two months our family has spent time in six different countries, visiting parks in every location. I have a growing theory that the casual observer can learn something about the culture from paying attention to the types of equipment in a playground and watching the ways that equipment is used by the children and the adults they are with.
My sampling of playgrounds from the countries in the title of this post (plus, the post I wrote a few weeks ago about parks in Japan) is very small, and I’m sure does not provide a clear overview of playgrounds across that country. Still, I enjoy reflecting on our experiences in these parks and wondering what conclusions I can draw given my very limited experience.
Here is an overview of the parks we visited…
Stanley, Hong Kong, China
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
We visited several parks in Vietnam, and I was surprised to see that most of the equipment challenged the children’s skills of balancing. In a city that relies almost exclusively on motorcycles for transportation (I saw several motorcycles with a family of five riding together), I wondered if balancing was a highly valued skill.
We found a nature playground while exploring the Southern Ridges in Singapore. My favorite recycled item was an old shipping container, painted and transformed into a playhouse.
Our family spent time at two very different playgrounds in Myanmar. The first was a familiar looking playground in the city center. In the afternoon shade, families enjoyed respite from the intense heat of the day. The park was so crowded that it was tricky to keep track of my kids, regardless of how they stood out from the Burmese!
I enjoyed observing the children – older siblings and friends helped younger ones climb and picked them up if they fell. There was a strong community feel as people laughed and enjoyed time together.
The local families gathered to watch our youngest – standing out with his fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair.
Finding friends everywhere.
One of my favorite moments was watching as a group of about 12 children played on a slide – some climbing up, some climbing down, no adults around to orchestrate, and no one getting hurt. The children negotiated this shared space on their own, with joy! Imagine that.
Our second park in Myanmar was an old rundown wooden structure that would have been closed long ago in the US. Still, the local children played and climbed, stepping agilely across the rotten boards and holes in the structure.
Most recently, we spent time in Kochi. There were playgrounds everywhere! They all had multiple merry-go-rounds, and every playground we visited had one of these climbing structures with a ball at the top.
All of this park-hopping has me eager to turn this very informal, very un-scientific research into the cultural values connected to parks into a more formal research project. World travel + parks + families and children? Sounds good to me!
Emily is currently sailing with Semester at Sea along with her family. She has very limited internet access while she is away, but she still loves reading your comments! Have you traveled to parks in any of these countries? Are your experiences similar to the pictures above?