Spark the Conversation YYC Spark Blog

Operation Explore 2018!

July 6, 2018
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July 1st- September 3rd

 “It is better a broken bone than a broken spirit. A leg can always mend. A spirit cannot.”

-Lady Allen of Hurtwood

 Sit back, relax and let the kids take the lead at Operation Explore where there are endless possibilities for them to test their imagination, build stronger minds and hearts with just a teaspoon of risk!

Operation Explore features new and exciting obstacles for children to roam, creating an environment for free play. Free play is a powerful tool used to build stronger brains, expand creativity and enhance problem solving skills. Not only is it incredible for the mind, free play also reinforces physical, emotional and cognitive abilities.

Operation Explore, Calgary’s largest outdoor playground, featuring an outdoor and indoor maze, a junkyard playground for endless adventures, GIANT outdoor science every day from 11:30am & 4:45pm and Social Eatery’s BBQ Adventure every Monday from 11am-2pm!

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What is free play?

Free play is pleasurable. Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play. It is intrinsically motivated. Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behaviour itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal. Play is process oriented. When children play, the means are more important than the ends. It is freely chosen. It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play. Free play is actively engaged. Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity. Play is non-literal. It involves make-believe.

“Play is simple, yet also profound.”

- Dianne Krizan


Free play is essential for a child’s growth. In 1931, Danish landscape architect, Carl Theodor Sørensen expressed the importance of free play when he as a child found himself enjoying playing in junkyards rather than traditional parks. He encouraged the idea of children being allowed to get lost in their own world and using materials they can manipulative to encourage free expression. This is where the idea of “Junkyard Playground” came to be and was reinforced in 1946 when English landscape architect, Lady Allen of Hurtwood saw a junkyard playground and created her own version named “Adventure Playground” to bring back to England specifically for children to play in during WWII.


What is risky play?

Risky play is encouraged because it allows exposure to small, but manageable stresses, building healthy brain architecture and forcing judgments to respond to new environments. Navigating small risks when young, prepares children to handle adult-sized risks, healthily later on in life. We believe that everyone is born to play. It combines the joy of freedom with the right amount of fear, producing a sense of thrill. There’s a vast difference between risk and hazard. We always want to provide an environment where children can engage with risks and hazards are removed.

Take a step back and let go while your child explores endless adventures because when kids lead, amazing things follow.

Learn more about Operation Explore here.