FreePlay on the Parkway

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, and Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis—assisted by lots of children—will cut the ribbon at 12 noon on Saturday, May 21 for FreePlay on The Parkway.

Located in the heart of the Parkway Museums District, between 21st and 22nd Streets on the south side of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, FreePlay on The Parkway is a new kind of play space. The park features Imagination Playground™ blocks (soft building pieces kids combine to make structures) sponsored by Sprout; a huge octagonal sandbox (the only public eight-sided sandbox in the city); and a Henge™ cast-concrete Ping Pong table (paddles and balls provided). Bistro-style seating is also featured for parents, visitors, and anyone in search of a place to relax. The ribbon cutting is open to all and will feature free food, games, activities and a special appearance by Liz from Sprout’s The Sunny Side Up Show. 

“This pocket park is an exciting idea for Philadelphia, and one we hope will be replicated throughout the City,” says Mayor Nutter. “As I’ve frequently said, one of my Administration’s goals is to increase recreational green space for Philadelphia’s children. Free Play on The Parkway is an innovative example of how community leaders can work with the city to invest in their neighborhoods and create new, vibrant neighborhood meeting places.”  

The prototype park was conceived and designed by Play Inbetween, a local nonprofit, in cooperation with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Major funding has been provided by Karen and Herbert Lotman.  “I am thrilled to be a part of this very worthwhile endeavor,” says Karen Lotman. “It’s a unique play area for residents and visitors alike, young and not-as-young, right in the heart of downtown.” Funding has also been provided by Sprout, the first 24-hour preschool television channel that inspires parents and preschoolers to play and share together through its real life learning approach to programming.

FreePlay on The Parkway is inspired by a concept developed by Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck, who designed hundreds of play spaces based on the idea that unstructured play is a critical component of childhood development. The Imagination Blocks, Ping Pong, and sandbox all work together to promote skills children need as they grow into adulthood: sharing and cooperation, problem solving, communication, and physical dexterity.

The site will also include additional programming throughout the summer, from chess, tai chi, and yoga to art and educational programs funded in part by Independence Blue Cross. The park will be staffed from 10AM-6PM Tuesday-Friday and 9AM-5PM Saturday, just in case frustration sets in!

FreePlay on The Parkway is designed to encourage creativity, movement, imaginative interaction, and community. It is the prototype for a flexible design concept that its creators hope will expand to additional, underutilized spaces throughout the City. More information:

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