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Exhibition at the City of Toronto Archives

September - December 2017  |  March - August 2018

Regulating children's use of public space: 

Reformers and the Playground Movement

Centrally located in The Ward, the Elizabeth Street School Playground opened in 1905. It was originally privately run and managed by the Local Council of Women, who initiated the cause of creating play space for urban children. By 1912, Board of Education teachers were supervising the playground.  Eventually the TPA took authority for the Elizabeth Street School Playground. Typically, children’s playgrounds were first created on school grounds, and through the efforts of the Toronto Playground Association (TPA), were later expanded and managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department (Murnaghan, 2010).  

The playground idea of open play spaces with light and trees, equipment and adult supervision, combined several reform objectives to create new Canadians: open spaces to ward off sickness; the promotion of play as an essential activity in child development; sports equipment and training to make the young fit and channel their energy away from deviant behaviour; a space for children of different ethnic backgrounds to mix and learn to get along as the seed for a future integrated workforce. Not all children adopted the playground. Many stayed away from the social moulding and controlling intent of the adults, preferring the streets and back lanes as their own spaces.

Poor City Neighbourhoods and Fresh Air Funds


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