Spielplätze: The Beauty of German Playscape Structures

In 2018, Luke and I traveled with the kids to Germany. We visited friends, and re-visited old routes from previous trips and from when we lived there. Since our kids were 4 and 6 years old at the time, we naturally ended up hanging around city parks during our visit. It was interesting to observe German parents and their children in a natural family element, outside of tourist stops, traveling commutes and visitor accommodations. Ruby managed to make a new playmate, even with the English/German language barrier. Play is play for kids!

I was content to sit or wander around said parks, watching the kids play. Often, I had the option of a conveniently located imbiss nearby where I could buy a small bier or juice, snack or bratwurst for a nominal price. How lovely. How novel. 

I enjoyed sitting and observing the German engineering design and playful colors. Many of the structures were made from recycled materials, (i.e. old tires, tubes) but also new materials, organic and inorganic. The imagination and resourcefulness the designs invited was just… beautiful. Certain areas would challenge kids to climb higher, or balance in a specific way, or use ingenuity to get from one spot to the next. Basic fun and problem-solving, together. 

Another design element I appreciated was the occasional water feature. I challenge you to find a child that does not enjoy the magic of water, getting wet, or dare I say.. getting muddy. Whether an inches-deep water channel to float sticks on, a plank set across two land banks as a bridge, or a splash park to cool off in the heat…. KIDS LOVE WATER! It is our human nature to be calmed and grounded by this fascinating, life-dependent element.

So common in our modern world I hear the pleas of parents at the playground… “watch out!”,”don’t climb up there, you might fall!”, “don’t touch that, you’ll get dirty!”. Aren’t playgrounds the perfect spot to independently push our boundaries a bit?? Most all play scapes adhere to certain safety standards, and while we as parents innately watch out for our children, our children also need to learn the important lesson of knowing their own boundaries and capabilities. They need to learn how to trust themselves and be confident in their own steps, figuratively and physically. 

The Spielplatz areas that I have photographed here are all located in Germany, in Erfurt (Ega Park), Leipzig (Clara Zetkin Park), and Berlin (Zoologischer Garten). This is not, by any stretch, a comprehensive set. If any journalistic outlet with a travel budget would like to send me on a documentary tour of amazing Spielplatz spots in Germany, my bag is already packed. 

Using Format