My kids have vivid imaginations. Give them a few sticks and some dirt, and they’ll be happy for hours. (Throw in a truck or two, and they’ll never want to leave!) So while we love a great playground — we also love a great playscape. Playscapes are all-natural playgrounds where kids can explore, interact and engage with their environment. Instead of fancy slides and swings, there are logs and rocks. Instead of squishy turf, there is dirt. Instead of fancy jungle gyms, there are structures made from reclaimed materials. Nestled inside UC’s campus, Arlitt Playscape is the perfect place for imaginative kids.
Arlitt Playscape is the very definition of a true hidden gem. It’s literally located in the middle of the campus; yet, once you’re in it, you don’t feel at all like you’re at the center of our city’s largest school. The playscape is completely enclosed by a fence, so you can truly let your kids run wild in this little piece of urban paradise. There are trails winding through the playscape, like a labyrinth, connecting the various areas together.
The component most resembling a traditional playground is the wooden “treehouse” at the center of the playscape, which features a bridge, ramps, steps and tunnel. This was popular with Mary, who will take any opportunity to run, skip and jump. She loved running through the tree canopy.
Having brought a few trucks from home, Julian and Harvey were excited to have rocks, sand and gravel to dig up. In fact, all three of my kids spent a lot of their time digging, demolishing and creating at their makeshift construction site.
Harvey loved running logs from one side of the playscape to the other — he gleefully grabbed logs from a pile and carried them to his construction site. He played peekaboo with me in the stick house, a structure that resembled something one of the Three Little Pigs would build. He picked up giant, withered sunflowers and threw them in a pile, cackling like a maniac.
As a parent, what I find most intriguing about playscapes is the way in which they allow kids to manipulate their very makeup. The playscape is an ever-changing environment. At Arlitt, rocks that were in one corner can be moved to another. Wooden towers can be built and knocked down. Water can be pumped through a dry, rocky creek bed. Playscapes are the ultimate “choose your own adventure” of playgrounds, where kids can make the experience their own.
Arlitt Playscape (website) is located in the heart of the University of Cincinnati. (Click here to download a map!) Driving from Jefferson, turn on to University. At the traffic circle, take a left on Commons Way driving away from the blue Scioto and Morgen dorm towers. Once on Commons, the Playscape is on the right at the corner of French Hall. From Commons Way, take a left on West Daniels. There is metered parking on West Daniels across from Schneider Hall.
Admission is free. Because Arlitt Playscape is actually located on campus, I advise going on the weekend or during one of UC’s breaks.