Playgrounds I like include the following features:
2) Clear sight lines
3) Small areas
4) Few people
5) Easy parental access to all play structures
6) Fun playground equipment
Team Stimey went to a playground today that had exactly one of six of those features. Team Stimey Junior had a blast because that one positive feature was fun playground equipment. Team Stimey Senior had a heart attack because the rest of the park seemed ACTIVELY DESIGNED to aid kidnappers and kids who tend to meander off.
It was difficult to take a photo of the whole playground, because it is huge, which was awesome for the munchkins, but terrible for me. I do have this professionally marked up and annotated photo that can give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here.
Shoot. I used numbers up above too. Listen, I’m sorry that I have two lists of six in this post. You are just going to have to deal with them. God, Stimeyland has gotten confusing.
1) There is a long, raised wooden boardwalk dividing the playground. Note the fence, presumably to keep kids from jumping off of it, but effectively forcing parents to walk all the way around if they need to chase a quick, agile child. There are also child-size openings in the fence under the boardwalk. More on that later.
2) Off that way is the sandbox, the baby swings, and some bouncy toys. Also off that way is easy access to the untamed forest bordering the playground. I get that the park designers probably did this to keep little kids separated from bigger, rampaging older children. To that, I say, thank GOODNESS no little kids have OLDER SIBLINGS. Or that there aren’t sensory seekers who will hang out in the sand, leaving their more active siblings wandering unsupervised. You know, in theory.
3) Swings and giant web climbing structure. Giant.
4) HUGE slides that start on one side of a raised area that has a fence/ladder system clearly not designed for adults and that let out on the other side of said barrier. Even the little kid slide is set up this way.
5) Other playground equipment. This was home to this spinny thing that Jack loved and on which he made friends with more than one girl who was interested in helping him spin as fast as he could. That was my favorite thing in the park.
6) Giant synthetic mountain. Honestly, pretty goddamn awesome. But also kinda perilous. Plus, the entire backside of it was not only (naturally) blocked from view, but provided a perfect unsupervised escape route for curious kids who like to check out what is happening in other, less populated parts of the park.
Enjoy your tour? I’d like to highlight some of the more stressful aspects of this park that brought out the neurotic parent in me. In my photos, I tried to include as few random people as possible, but it was difficult considering how crowded it was. Fortunately Alex was there to actually watch the children while I wandered around documenting how hard it was to watch your children.
It was also, like, 65 degrees, so we ran into every local friend we had who also decided to go to the park yesterday. Hello? January? Where are yooooouuuuu?
So. Let’s start with that boardwalk, which not only divides the playground in two, but eliminates clear sightlines, so you can’t stand in one place and watch all of your children. Other than the obvious, I have a couple of issues.
Jack loves that damn tube. And it’s the last place you’re ever going to look for him. It also provides a way for kids to quickly and invisibly dart to an entirely different part of the park. Yes, there is access for adults to squinch by as well, but that access also allows children to get under the boardwalk where you CANNOT REACH THEM.
Shortly after I took that photo, he scooted out of a small hole on the other side of the boardwalk. It was upsetting.
Honestly, at some point, I just gave up on Sam. I figured that he was the least likely to wander off or be kidnapped. Sorry, Sam. You’re one of my very favorites, but this is the cost of competence.
Next, let’s discuss the division between the top of the slides and the bottom of the slides. That division is a fence atop a six-or-so-foot cement wall that has grooves etched into it for kids to use as ladders.
I managed to capture Quinn in a demonstration of these ladders for you.
Step one: Climb the unclimbable ladder grooves:
Step two: Squeeze through the child-sized fence hole at the top.
Step three: Change your mind at the last second and decide that you’d rather wander around unsecured on the DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! side of the fence.
Speaking of Quinn and danger at the park, should we take a moment to discuss fashion dangers? Because, come on, Q-ball. GQ isn’t going to come calling if this continues.
Moving on to the giant web structure. I can’t really nitpick about this one too much because it falls squarely in the fun playground equipment category, but I am always terrified that my kids are going to fall and then ricochet all the way to the ground.
Fortunately, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue was there.
Speaking of watching your own kids, there was some sketchy parental supervision going on as well.
Dear lord, THAT doesn’t seem safe, kid in the green shirt.
Christ, kid, use your hands!
Oh, and let us not forget the dangers of not thoroughly considering who you will marry and who will then proceed to post embarrassing photos of you all over the internet a mere twelve years later.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this next photo of the synthetic hill, but I thought you should see it. Also, I saw an older kid doing multiple cartwheels down it, which was terrifying to watch.
At some point Jack took a break on the top of a REAL hill. I took this next photo to demonstrate the woods directly adjacent to the park and how easy it would be to (a) wander off into them, or (b) hide in them and wait for an unsuspecting child to take a break on a real hill.
Let’s move on to the little-kid part of the park, which, incidentally, is the only place my kids were harmed. There were three injuries sustained, all by Jack. First, he pinched his fingers in the swing for disabled kids. (And then it took me a while to figure out how to unlock it and get him out.)
In terms of real injury, however, I am about to show you the most dangerous item of playground equipment at this park. Jack was injured TWICE. Those of you with nervous constitutions may not want to look.
Jack banged his tooth on it and then he fell right off of it when he was sitting on its forehead. That last may have been off-label use, however.
Park designers: I am available to consult. Really. Call me.