Lester Talkington, Skipping Rope, 1950 (via thursdayprojects)

As a detached observer of the playgrounds that line the upper promenade of Riverside Park, I have come across an unexpected discovery.

The classics — swings, monkey bars, slides — are all there and enjoy their fair share of use. But the most popular activities are not strictly part of the playground at all.

Three of these playgrounds each have their own unique feature. One has a wooden plank bridge that squeaks when one or more children jump on it. Another has a tree stump with a weathered texture and craggy outline that could pass for a Song landscape painting if you ignore the sandbox that surrounds it. Every playground has a gate low enough for a three year old to reach.

There’s always someone jumping on the squeaky bridge loud enough to hear within a five block radius. There’s always someone sitting by the tree stump or climbing its short peak and looking over the edge like it’s the prow of a ship. And there’s always someone opening and closing and opening and closing the gate, removing the chain and locking it in place, removing and locking.

It’s the box-is-better-than-the-toy principle.

Can you think of the last time you ignored the directions and created your own fun? If only gates held on to their multi-purpose appeal.