Spark Blog

Junkyard Playground

May 23, 2019
Posted By: TELUS Spark


It’s time to PARK your helicopters and SPARK creativity in the Junkyard Playground, where kids are free to build, break and re-build their own unique experiences. The playground has won this year’s CASCADE “Best Programming” Award  for providing a safe-space for kids to take some risks!

Curious about what risks are involved? Here’s a quick Q&A with one of the minds behind this collection of award-winning junk! 

What the heck is a Junkyard Playground? 

A space with endless possibilities and a teaspoon of risk 
Kid-created, real-life Minecraft
Resistant to the intrusion of out-of-touch adults (who just aren’t down with the kids)
Messy, risky, playful brainfood

Describe the playground in 3 words. 

Risk Builds Resilience

What is the difference between free play and risky play?

Free play is free from an observer.

  • We all know that feeling where we act differently when we know we are being watched. Maybe we get more nervous, or maybe we try and show off. Free play builds independence and autonomy by removing these hovering influences. 

Risky play is play with natural consequences.

  • Studies show that the more minor injuries a child experiences earlier in life, the less injuries they have later in life. Both risks and hazards exist in play and have the potential for harm. Risks are potential sources of harm that could hurt you, but not seriously, and in understanding this a risk is something that you can consent to. Unlike a hazard, which is a danger that surprises you.


Risk = you see a prickly stick and you find a strategic way to pick it up without poking yourself

Hazard = a stick that doesn’t seem sharp pokes you by surprise.


Junkyard Playground may look like a giant mess, but careful curation and regular inspections ensure that there's a bit of risk, but not so many hazards. 

How much risk are we talking here?

Sterile play spaces, filled with soft foam, rounded corners and gentle slides, have gained popularity, but are they actually fun? Are they building brains? 

The science is saying that the scraped knees, scratches, and stubbed toes that come with having fun in parks, on farms and in woodlands are minor injuries that actually help build our brains! And the Junkyard Playground creates a space where kids can play in a more traditional way  (infused with a small amount of risk).

If you could pick one kid-creation from last year’s Junkyard Playground to install in your own backyard, what would it be?

One of the most inventive things from last summer was a group of kids who collaborated to create their own zipline! Using ropes, cords, bits of metal, and old fabric, they successfully created a zipline that could hold weight and let you glide from point to point.

Okay, what’s one more need-to-know about the Junkyard Playground?

Loose Parts Play!

If you have ever given a kid a toy and then watched them have more fun with the box it came in, then you’ve seen loose-parts-play in action! Using non-play objects in play, through the power of imagination, is good for young brains because it makes them use their brainpower to define the object. A toy car is a toy car, but a cardboard box is a car, a cave, a castle, a hat and a spaceship all at once!

Get Risky!

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