pop-up playgrounds toronto

Toronto is getting pop-up playgrounds all around the city and they're for adults only

After more than a year stuck in one type of lockdown or another, some people may feel anxious about getting back to socializing in crowds again.

A Toronto organization hopes to help with 50 pop-up playgrounds around the city just for adults.

Playgrounds are usually for kids but the pop-up playground from Reset, a Toronto-based organization that ran adult summer camps, is a chance for people to "un-adult" and benefit from the magical experience of play, says Adil Dhalla, Reset's director of community.

The playgrounds are the work of 84 artists, community organizers and volunteers who want to help people adjust to life out of isolation.

"The shared vision for all of us was how do we make strangers feel less strange again," Dhalla says.

The pop-up playgrounds are held in public spaces and parks with about 10 people. Each person is given a headphone (sanitized for each reuse) and they listen to instructions guiding them in play activities. Dhalla says it is like guided meditation but instead of going inward, people are interacting outward in play.

Isolation and moving away from strangers have become the norm in the pandemic.

"We barely look at strangers in the eyes now but if we can get silly with one another then we might be able to break through," he says.

The instructions are given through the headphones rather than a cell phone to get away from too much technology. For those with hearing loss, the headphones work with most hearing aids. They are working on making the experience accessible for those who are deaf.

There have been 15 pop-ups already and Dhalla says people tend to stop and watch the groups play.

"There is just as many people who stop to watch, and by virtue of participating, you essentially become the art."

Reset's adult summer camps were held outside of the city but the non-profit wants to focus on working in the city, Dhalla says. There are plans to open a physical space in Toronto this fall, he says.

"We made a decision to shift our work to be in the city because we feel like what we do is so centred around joy and connection and there is such a need for that in our urban spaces now."

Tickets for the pop-up playgrounds are on a sliding scale from $25, and it is free for people identifying as Indigenous or Black.

Any profits from the events this summer will go to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

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