Thursday 4 October 2012

Themed Thursday: Playgrounds Suck Now
I've joined up with some other bloggers to do this thing called Themed Thursdays where we write about a particular theme and then link up with each other.  Any of my fellow bloggy friends who are interested by all means let us know.  This week's theme is playgrounds.

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 play structure itself seemed to be made out of rejected factory parts: metal pipes, chains, rubber tires, rope, plastic tubes, rusty nails, aluminum siding (okay, I made those last two up).  You probably could have used one of these things to provide basic training at a boot camp.  And every play-structure either sat on sand or had a sandbox nearby great for digging and discovering parasites and freshly buried cat turds.

The good old days.
Obviously, I get the need to update the playgrounds of my childhood.  Some of these things were actually dangerous/unsanitary.  But the unfortunate side effect of making the playgrounds safer is that they also got a lot suckier, too.

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.
Because if you don't climb up the slide there is nothing left to climb.  (Do those stupid short climbing walls that can only fit one child at a time count?  Not in my books.  Also, their ridiculously shallow toe-holds seem to make them more dangerous than old-school monkey bars, not less.)

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.


  1. This made me laugh AND feel guilty. What a weird combo.

    1. Guilty, schmilty. I felt the same way reading yours because I was all "I hope she doesn't take mine the wrong way." I think it's awesome that you like to play with your kid. I also really don't have a problem with looking out for a little kid who really needs it (especially since I want to defend the rights of the older kids to run like lunatics). But you seem to have a "Let me hover and I'll let you run" kind of attitude, and that's fine by me.

      I just think it's sad that an 11 year old boy complains about a trip to the park because it's legitimately boring. And then once he is finally convinced to go his every attempt at fun is met with disapproval.

  2. I always LOVED the fireman's pole. That sounds way too dirty but also speaks to my initial reaction of wondering if my mom thought I would be a stripper...I do love those "fitness" pole classes....could it all stem from this?

  3. I had the same reaction - felt guilty for being one of those parents who hate it when bigger kids interact with my kids. (but I never glare at them OR their parents for pete's sake - unless the parents are clearly allowing all hell to break lose with no care)

    I think my biggest problem with bigger kids is the parent who ignores age-appropriate rules (the ones that are posted about age/size requirements) and put them in a small area with lots of obstacles that they then run at full speed and jump over. I avoid those play places at The Mall like I avoid the sick side of the pediatricians office during a well-visit.

    But I totally see your point - where ARE the good playgrounds for the tweens? Is it just that there are too many organized soccer leagues now that public money is no longer spent on outdoor areas appropriate for middle-schoolers?

    Thought I'm really not sure there is a middle [play]ground for such an age range. That's a big challenge for you I'm sure - but it's the same challenge for kid-targeted places. For insurance and safety sake, you just can't have 4 year olds playing with 11 year olds in a free-for-all setting where half the parents don't actually parent.

    1. Full disclosure: When Frick was toddling around I saw those older kids as rough and tumble hooligans because they looked so big next to my little guy. It didn't hit me until Frick turned into one of those hooligans that I had maybe been a little unfair to those kids (but only in my thoughts, I never actually yelled at any of them).

      It would be awesome if they could make side-by-side big kid's and little kid's playgrounds. You'd think with so many campaigns against childhood obesity they could take that into consideration.

    2. apparently it's easier and cheaper to just talk about the nations childhood obesity problem rather than to implement anything to fix it.

      I just remembered - there actually IS a playground near me where there is a totally separate playground for the under 5 crowd but right next to the bigger kid playground. Unfortunately, the kids don't read the signs and the parents don't bother - so my 2 1/2 year old twins still get run over by 8 year olds.

  4. I soooo identify with this post. My girls are 13, 8 and 6. Of course the Middle & Youngest play nicely together at a park, and love all manner of play structures, swings and monkey bars. However, my just recently turned clearly not enthused. Might be different if there were mirrors, make-up, hair accessories and clothes strewn about the park. You know, kind of like backstage at fashion show? So, it's usually my own diva doll who rains on her sisters' parade after 10 min at the park. **sigh**

    1. Maybe she'd like to go if there were cute boys her age who wanted to play there? I remember spending plenty a spring evening after school with the girls at the park in the hopes my crush would show up their with his friends.

  5. I loved this. My child is only 18-months-old, so I was too busy keeping her from putting dirt in her mouth and running in front of a kid on a swing over the summer to really assess the whole park situation from the perspective of older kids. And now that you point it out, the playground equipment really does suck. I remember those teeter totters (and so does my tailbone!) and merry-go-rounds. And those jungle gyms in the shape of a circle - what happened to those?

    It makes more sense to me now why we very rarely saw kids playing at the parks we drove past while looking for a house in the 'burbs over the summer. We thought it was because it was hotter than hell and no one was allowed out in the sun, but now I have a feeling it was because the kids were bored sh&tless every time they went!

    1. I know they're like ghost towns sometimes.

      I find it a little unsettling around here that I see plenty of babies and primary school-aged children but hardly ever any tweens and teens. It's almost like something out of a scary movie, "What Happened to the Tweenaged Children?"

  6. When I was little I would look at the playground as if it was a boot camp, and the most fun I had with it was running through it to one end to the other seeing how fast I could get across it.
    When I got older around 10-13 I suppose I was lucky cause I would venture into the Red Hill Creek with my brother. We would go there for hours and try and catch snakes and we'd see dames and deer and it was awesome. We would even race up the Red Hill to see who could get up there faster. That was one of the best times of my life.

  7. You must come visit me in the Lou so I can show you the City Museum. It is like the most badass playground ever. Do get your tetanus booster beforehand though, mkay?

  8. I miss things about our playground growing up too. I visited it a few years ago with my kids and it was like it was frozen in time. Still the same. You don't see merry go rounds anymore. Or teeter totters. Or those horses that you swing back and forth on. Or the big, steep metal slides that we'd use wax paper on to go faster. Those things were killers on a 90 degree day. I know why they've changed everything....too dangerous or something. But those of us who managed to not crack our heads open had a great time! ;)