Posted in family life

park remodels and random thoughts about playgrounds

Our hometown recently updated one of the city parks in a more disability-friendly way (if you’re local, check out this article for more details!), and since it had been one of our favorite cool-weather parks last year we were excited to see how it had been transformed over the few months it was out of commission. Of course the ducks and the library were still there, so it’s hard to go very far wrong…

While none of my kids have physical disabilities right now, several of my friends have siblings or children who do, so accessibility is something I try to be aware of (although I obviously don’t have the personal experience to really evaluate whether or not something is truly accessible). It’s also something I want to encourage and seek out, so that my kids don’t grow up feeling uncomfortable and awkward around people who are physically different than them. If they grow up playing at the park with people with disabilities, it’s just going to be another permutation of normal in their minds, which is exactly how I think it should be.

(One of my favorite moments with Rondel at a park was about six months ago, at the big splash pad near our home, on a Friday morning when a group from a facility for severely disabled individuals came to enjoy the water as well. One older teenager was just sitting in the water, under the spray, splashing with his arms and laughing and laughing, a look of pure happiness on his face. Rondel watched him for a few minutes, then sat down in the water a few feet away and started doing the exact same thing. To him, there was nothing strange about seeing a “big person” acting like that – it was just another way to enjoy the park, and one he could enter into and enjoy also.)

Anyway, the new playground has a few attractions specifically geared toward children with physical issues – a zip-line that has a seat and harness instead of just a pole to hang onto, ramp accessibility on the play structure, a two-person swing, and rubber matting over a large part of the playground so wheels don’t get stuck – but it also has a lot of generally fun things for any kid to engage with: slides, ropes, ladders, a sand table/digging area, and so on. We’ve been there twice in the past couple weeks and had a great time on both occasions.

Rondel particularly appreciates the seated zip-line – he hasn’t mastered holding on to the more traditional seat, but he loves zooming back and forth:

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Seriously, the kid just can’t contain his laughter every time he soars backwards on that seat!

Limerick was a bit more apprehensive of the zip line (he liked it, but at a slower pace), but he loved the sand and the ladders:

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There is only one small sand area at the park (so it can easily be avoided if you don’t like the mess or if your child has sensory issues with the sand), and it only has one digging shovel – both times we went, we brought our buckets and shovels, and they were much appreciated by the other kids at the park. The other non-rubber areas have wood chips.

They also have a neat piece of equipment I hadn’t seen before: basically a series of rolling plastic tubes underneath a sort of tunnel of railings. The little kids were scooting and crawling over the rollers underneath the railings, and some of the bigger kids were holding onto the railings and “running” on the rollers with a sort of treadmill effect. Limerick went though that one over and over again:

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I like the random playground equipment that, unlike ladders and slides, doesn’t have an obvious “right way” to be used; I think it facilitates open-ended play and experimentation, and it cuts down on all the parental rules for play that I notice every time I go to the park (at least at parks with attentive, hovering/engaged, middle-class white parents… the parks by our home, in much poorer neighborhoods, are far less parentally supervised).

Anyway, I think the changes at this park were for the better, and we’ll be coming back to play, feed the ducks, and maybe even do story time at the library! If any of you are local, it’d be a great place to meet up and spend a morning getting to know each other.

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