Turn kids loose with sand, water, and simple stuff they can move around—and then get out of their way. In no time, they’ll create their own world of castles, fanciful creatures, and vehicles powered by sheer imagination.

Such childish fun may seem out-of-date to today’s heavily scheduled kids and their wellmeaning parents. But free play is about to get a big boost. Imagination Playground, designed pro bono by architect David Rockwell in collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks...

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