As a homeschooling family, we are often on the go. Driving to far-flung play dates, classes, and learning experiences is just part of our daily grind. Oftentimes, we need a place to stretch, kill an hour, or meet some friends halfway. As a result, we are forever on the lookout for great playgrounds.
What makes a playground great? Here’s my criteria for a great playground, or Five Things to Look for in a Playground:
1. Space. Kids need room to run and move freely and that goes for play structures, too. We have visited many places that, at first, seemed like they would be winners until we found ourselves bumping into other kids and squeezing by railings to get around things. Even the coolest structures aren’t as fun in a small space.
2. Safe for all ages. The playground nearest our home is divided into two sections, one for the big kids and one for the little kids. Seems like a good idea? Nope. First of all, little kids aren’t idiots. They can plainly see when they’ve been bamboozled. Visit any split park like the one I’ve described and you will see the little kid playground sitting there, mostly unused. Would you go down a 5 foot slide when there are three 10 footers and a twisty one right nearby? Of course you wouldn’t, let’s give our toddlers some credit. An optimal play structure is safe for all ages and fun for all ages.
3. Shady. This is impossible for some locations to achieve but as a mom, I will consider my own comfort. Give me a shady spot with a bench or a big rock and I’ll come and spend the afternoon. Leave me to bake in the sun and sorry, I’m driving past.
4. Unique. Of course you have to have the staples: slides, monkey bars, and swings. But think outside the box! Make slides that go somewhere unique, create monkey bars that zig zag, or throw some tire swings into the mix.
5. Natural materials and environment. Metal and plastic have taken over most playgrounds we have been to. Perhaps they are more cost effective, I’m not sure. I do know that “wooden” playgrounds are something my kids always adore and it seems to ring true with most of our friends, as well.
Today we visited Moharimet Elementary’s playground and it is a slam dunk. Definitely in my kids’ top three. It has it all: plenty of space to play, large, wooden structures that are safe for littles and still exciting for bigs, unexpected options like a slide down to the playground upon entry, a giant dragon made of recycled tires, horizontally-hanging tire swings, and plenty of tunnels and stairs for running and climbing. My son was especially fond of the mini zip-line. And while they were off giving Moharimet two thumbs up, I was enjoying a moment of peace…from my bench in the shade, of course.