One of my fondest memories as a child was getting to go to the park with Mummy Dearest and my brothers so we could climb all over the play equipment.
These things were awesome.
You had ginormous swings that made you feel like you could launch yourself to the moon if you got enough momentum. There were the long rickety teeter-totters that you could almost break your tailbone on if the kid on the other end of it happened to be an asshole. There were jungle gyms that could have been mistaken for unfinished apartment buildings they were so tall. There was the kid-powered merry-go-round that taught valuable lessons in centrifugal force.
The good old days.
Oh, they're fine for your average pre-schooler to have a pretty good time but for ages five and up the playground is kinda boring. There are no good hiding spots, the plastic tubes and slides are shorter, and forget about anything like jungle gyms, teeter-totters or merry-go-rounds. What you have now are low to the ground, wide, stable catwalks that you can walk on to get from one short slide to the next with a central gazebo type thingy great for standing on.
The only remnants of the playgrounds of yore (if you're lucky) are shorter versions of the parts that I always considered to be stupid and are largely ignored by modern kids, too: the fireman pole and those ladder shaped monkey bars that no kid ever has the upper body strength to maneuver. If you want to swing, get in line. There are fewer of those, too.
I remember spending a lot of time and energy trying to dissuade Frick when he was younger from climbing up the now much shorter slides instead of sliding down them because of the potential for head-on collisions. Now I realize that he was only trying to make this incredibly un-challenging playground more fun.
|For a 10 year old, this is not a fun time.|
Last year the suckiness of modern playgrounds really hit home. There is a seven year age difference between Frick and Frack. So while the sucky playground is still fun for 4 year old Frack it is downright unwelcomiong to 11 year old Frick.
I've noticed that when Frick and his friends try to have fun on the play-structure the parents of the younger children seem to resent them even being there. They feel that the older kids are setting a bad example in their attempting to climb the structure in a way that was clearly not intended by its design (ie. fun). They are much more likely to be yelled at to "Slow down and look out for the little ones!" than, say, the 6 and 7 year olds who are running just as recklessly. One time I overheard a parent say to another something to the effect them being "too old" to play there and "Why don't they go somewhere else?"
So, adding to the suckiness of the playground is now a bunch of sucky parents acting like my kid's idea of enjoyment is making their toddler fall down (it isn't). I don't ever remember seeing an adult on the play structures of my childhood but today kids can't run around on one without bumping into over-zealous parents.
Parents who seems to resent their desire to run because it's fun and because it's the last bastion of exercise on these pitiful, prefab, Fisher-Price monstrosities. Parents who seem to think that the public parks were only designed for very small children and who seem to forget that the older kids have just as much a right to play there, too. And why shouldn't they think the playground was only designed for very small children? It was!
What are we doing when we participate in this way to dissuade older children from fun at the park? Where else do we expect them to go? What is there for a 10-13 year old child to do if they don't have the park? Get into trouble, that's what.
For example, in our neighbourhood we have The Hobo Hole.
Our local park is on the edge of a protected wooded area that boasts all kinds of great hiking trails. I think it's great for Frick and his friends to explore this area except that there's this Hobo Hole. They told me it's a small campsite hidden in the bushes where, presumably, a hobo lives. I think I have to draw the line at the possibility of these kids running into a homeless and possible mentally deranged man-of-the-woods.
This is what we're left with here, people. We've made playgrounds so sucky that kids are contemplating hanging out with hobos in the woods where I seriously doubt they'll be regaled with tales of ridin' the rails as they eat beans out of a can. Still, that's what passes as a thrilling challenge to children who really ought to be finding their fun at the parks but instead find themselves to be bored or unwelcome.
Surely there has to be some middle ground between safety and fun. A middle playground perhaps?
(For some truly awesome playgrounds check out Our Favorite Dangerous Playgrounds)
And now without further ado, here are the other Themed Thursday bloggers. I'm very curious to see what their take on playgrounds are:
Something Clever 2.0.
Aspiring to the Middle
Cloudy With a Chance of Wine
I Like Beer and Babies
Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom
a calibama state of mind
The Next Step
If I've left anyone out I apologize. Just let me know and I will rectify that immediately.