Welcome to Halifax Plays. Approximately 50 playgrounds have been photographed and mapped during the life of this blog which got underway in 2009. A number of the playgrounds including but not limited to – North Woodside, the boat playgrounds on the Halifax and Dartmouth waterfronts, St. Mary’s Boat Club Playground and Hawthorn St. School Playground – have had either some or all equipment replaced. Currently, neither posts nor photos are being updated.

If anyone is interested in taking over the blog’s assets, please get in touch.

Many of the playgrounds are still as they were when my kids and I first gave them a whirl including on of my daughter Nellie’s favourite, the ‘fire truck’ playground at John Stuart Community Park in Cole Harbour.


If you’re on the highways and byways of Nova Scotia this year check CBC’s listener powered playground map for play adventures out of the city.

Are Playground Injuries Really Where We’re Hurting Most?

Last week Canada’s national public broadcaster, CBC, aired an item on playground injuries. The lead pretty much summed it all up, a numbers story that fell short on broader context.

“More than 28,000 children are injured every year on playgrounds across Canada, and the rate of hospitalizations has gone up by eight per cent between 2007 and 2012, CBC News has learned.”

CBC Playground Injuries copy

One thing is sure, no one wants to see a child injured. I live in Halifax, Canada a city with more than 300 playgrounds. My kids and I have played at about 50. They’re well maintained, mostly of the predictable off the shelf variety that address safety concerns and are light on excitement. In the last few years, I don’t recall any media reports about serious injuries.

Read the full blogpost at PlayGroundology

Swinging with The Brachiator

It’s within the last year that our Nellie-Rose has taken the monkey bars by storm. Our daughter is a wiry, wisp of a girl. She is determined, fierce in her pursuit of mastering new skills and can draw on a deep reservoir of bravery.

A couple of months before her 5th birthday she came down with monkey bars fever. Since then, when she arrives at a playground she transforms into The Brachiator. Her first order of business is to cast her eyes around to see what climbing fare is on offer and then to jump up and get swinging.

Dangling a couple of feet above the ground, Nellie-Rose maintains her practiced grip until she creates sufficient forward momentum with her lower body to release the grip with one of her hands to grab the next rung. She’s got it down to a science now and is capable of navigating every monkey bar obstacle course we’ve come across in our travels.

Let’s be clear, not all monkey bars are created equal. There are ring and triangle grips suspended on chain links, circular hoops, ascending and descending tracks, domes and any number of other variations.

DSC04014Bois Jois Playground, Dartmouth

Nellie-Rose does have some favourites – Bois Joli and South Woodside Elementary School in Dartmouth and what we call the Fire Truck playground in Cole Harbour. There’s also a set she’s discovered through big brother Noah’s soccer at Bel Air Elementary School. She was very proud and pleased to take grand-maman and grand-papa there to demonstrate her prowess during a recent visit they made from Quebec.

Mastering this kind of equipment at an early age gives kids a chance to assess their own abilities, get comfortable with risk and celebrate their achievements. Now I do admit that when she took her first tentative monkey bar sorties at the tail end of 3, I was in helicopter mode. I’ve left that far behind and now trust Nellie’s confidence and ability to carry the day.

Fire TruckEarly days, hanging on – The Fire Truck Playground, Cole Harbour (Auburn John Stuart Community Park Playground)

Check out Halifax Plays FB for a photo Gallery of local monkey bars. If you’ve come across any funky monkey bars either here or away, send pics with information on the location. We’ll share them with our readers here or on FB.

soccerTraining for the Junior Olympics Free-style Monkey Bars event at Bel Air Elementary School Playground, Dartmouth

Ok folks, swing you later….

Shout Outs and Halifax Plays Does Facebook

In June and July, play got some nice pick up in Halifax from mainstream media, bloggers and community news vehicles. It’s a real pleasure to see these individuals and organizations writing and broadcasting about the importance of play. Some of the activity was linked to the two-part Where Has All the Playing Gone? series hosted by the Alderney Landing Library – a joint Halifax Plays – PlayGroundology project.

Sliding downMe goofing for the camera at the Submarine Playground. Photo credit – Vincenzo Ravina

So shout outs to CBC Mainstreet, CBC TV News, Global TV Morning News, Community Herald (Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax), outside the circle. Thanks also to bloggers Lisa Spinney-Hutton for her post in The Green Phone Booth! and Michael Cusden for his blogpost on 10 Of The Best Playgrounds Halifax Has To Offer.

Thanks again also to Rachel Hawkes Cameron, Sarah MacKeigan, Bridget Quigley and Sue Sirrs who shared their experience and expertise in the world of playgrounds and play in our Playground People Panel. Each of them were passionate, knowledgeable and full of stories. If there are any child care, parent-teacher, community groups, or others interested in a 1 hour presentation – discussion on playgrounds and play pop me an email and we’ll see what we can organize.

Halifax Plays has opened two new channels, a Facebook Page and twitter. Give them a whirl when you have a moment. I’m always looking for good images for the Facebook Page and inspiring stories about play to share on Facebook, twitter and the blog.

Here are a couple of our more recent play moments in Dartmouth. Whoever first identifies both locations gets a free Lotto 649 ticket. There’s always that off chance that it could be a winner🙂

DSC00717Nellie has just recently started to flex her jumping muscles. She’s pushing to go a little higher each time…

This has been a great week for getting to the beach and into the water for a cool off. We like to get out early in the morning before the arrival of the madding crowds.

DSC00616Our gang of three doing their engineer impersonations as they let loose a raging torrent.

Keep active, see you at the playground.

Teeter my Totter

HRM’s teeter-totter population is in distress. Numbers are dwindling. There are kids who have never known the joy, or the jaw jarring jolt of a free fall drop from the on high position. Close to the harbour’s head in the city’s southeastern reaches there are two small prides of urban teeter-totters.

See-Saw Ocean ViewOcean View Elementary School, Eastern Passage

Most days they can be found grazing on their preferred food, pea gravel. The two groups are just a few hundred metres apart. The Ocean View group casts its glance out over the harbour entrance. The four members of the Tallahassee pride are arranged in pairs with a view of a sportsfield in one direction and playground equipment in the other. As captured in the photo, they must be approached stealthily.

DSC03250Tallahassee Elementary School, Eastern Passage

What has happened to the once wide range of this noble fulcrum of fun? Who is responsible for pushing it into the endangered species zone and can ordinary citizens play a role in reviving the teeter-totter’s fortunes?

They are still part of the mix in entertainment venues like the Westville Drive-in where I snuck in on more than one occasion during my more youthful years.

DSC07569Westville Drive-in teeter-totters

Then there are those who have migrated, back to the wild. The common red wooden teeter-totter is now synonymous with Kejimkujik National Park. Their prides are larger, six to a family unit. The group pictured here is configured in a classic 2-3-1 defensive position. They have left their urban trappings behind and flow with the ups and downs of the other forest dwellers.

See-Saws KejiThe Common Red Teeter-Totter, Kejimkujik National Park

But really has there been a decree penned that signals the teeter-totter’s demise and if so, why and by whom? Halifax Plays says bring back the teeter-totter from the brink of extinction. Other communities within the city should have access to these magnificent and misunderstood playful beasts of burden.

DSC03239The big push

So, a quick refresher – it takes two to teeter-totter. You see, then you saw. It helps if the teeterer and totterer are of more or less similar weight. The teeter-totter can be an early lesson in building trust and learning about risk, or not. You trust that your chum will not leave you up in the air legs dangling with your groin being pulled by gravitational force into the metal hand rest.

There are worse fates in the trust betrayed sweepstakes. That dangling feeling can turn on a dime. You could come plummeting to the earth, butt smacking the ground, knees around your ear lobes, teeth rattling inside your head. This is not the desired gentle let down from highest heights. It’s abrupt, brutish and can be painful. Hold on tight…

Water at Westmount

Hot enough in the afternoon sun today? Took me a long time getting my act together this morning to bundle the kids up and make sure we had everything necessary for a few hours out and about.


Noah was clamouring for a bus ride and had devised his plan yesterday. We took the car over to Dartmouth Sportsplex and rode the Number 1 from start to finish. Simple pleasures never cease to amaze me. The kids thought the trip was the cate’s meow – over the bridge, through downtown and then dropped off just a stone’s throw from a playground.

When we got to Westmount we homed in on some shade and tasted our delicacies. Then it was off to the splash zone. Surprise jets of cold water, hot sun and laughter, the stuff dreams are made of.


There’s a new structure added here too since my last visit. It’s partially wheelchair accessible. More photos on Halifax Plays FB here.

If you haven’t been to Westmount, one of its key attractions is that it’s an all abilities playground. There aren’t a lot them around in HRM. For more on all abilities playgrounds check my friend Mara Kaplan. She has significant experience in this area.

We bussed, we played, we made it back home just in time for a quick supper before soccer.

Down by the Bridge – Playground Creation Myth

There they are – three primary colour figures with arms upstretched holding the universe aloft. On top the trickster is coiled ready to pounce. Pause for a langourous smile here if you feel the back-bowed metal figure is ironic on its precarious perch not quite a poster child for stringent safety standards.

DSC06711The Playground Creation Myth

This small playground is tucked away behind a residential building close by the intersection of Green Road and Nova Court just a couple of blocks away from the Angus L. MacDonald bridge. There’s a McDonald’s down the street. If you’ve taken the kids there for some grub, do everyone a favour and hightail it over to the outdoor playground to work off some of the caloric intake from the fast food fix.

Just so you know, I’m packing too much weight and trying to shed about 40 pounds. I occasionally go to McD for comfort food when I’m on the road or have to get in to work extra early. When we travel long distance with the kids, fast food becomes the path of least resistance. Up to about 45, my metabolism took care of just about everything – no appreciable weight gain no matter my intake. Now I’ve got to try and reverse the pouindage creep from the last 10 years.


I pulled over here with older daughter Alexa, the best photographer our family has ever seen, one late March afternoon. NOTE – these photos are not hers and clearly my genes have had no bearing on her photographic ability.


Just coming back into the city, or on the way out and gotta have a playground moment or two? This could be your spot to climb, slide, swing and springride not to mention the possibility of taking a little red jeep for a cruise. More photos here.

Let me know if you’ve seen those mythic primary colour men anywhere else in your playground travels.

Happy Canada Day….