I recently attended a child’s birthday party at one of our favorite local parks. It’s an awesome park with multiple play areas. It’s an older wooden park but it has everything you can imagine swings, a handful of slides, ramps, shaky bridges, tires to climb, balance beams, poles to slide down, a climbing wall, it even has a small zip-line.
While we were at the party my son hit most of the equipment. He slid down the slides, balanced on the beam, walked on the shaky bridges, I helped him zip on the zip-line. He squealed with laughter and called for his friends to “follow me.” I found myself amazed and somewhat baffled when my son tried to entice not one but three different friends to follow him down the slides and none of the children would partake in the slide play. They all acted slightly terrified of the slides, even the smaller ones. I found myself wondering how often the other children visited parks.
My son and I are frequent visitors, at many parks. I try to make sure we got to the parks at least once a week and if the weather permits more often. (We play in the yard almost every day). I’ve found myself stopping at a park while driving because it was one we had never been to before and I wanted my child to experience the joy of a new park. Or sometimes if I have had a rough day myself we will stop at a park on the way home so I can boost my own spirits watching my child scramble and climb and slide with him enticing me to also scramble and climb and slide. (We even bring the dog on most excursions and she too will climb and slide.)
Am I a rare mother to bring my child to the park? I have so many fond memories myself, of playing at parks as a child, I could never imagine not taking my own child to experience the joy and wonder and magic of park play. What is wrong in our world that our children are not playing at parks? How do mother’s cope without taking their child to a place where they can run wild and expend all the energy that only little children are filled to the brim with?
I’ve read so many articles about how important it is for children to experience unstructured play. How much good it does for them to run and play and learn and what better place than a park?
This week’s challenge for all you parents. . . take your child to a park, (or two) and listen to their laughter. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, join them for a slide or two, or hang upside down with them like a monkey. You will be empowered by the feelings.
A Couple Great Articles about Outside Play: