Before I had kids I never could have imagined that I would have something specific to say about playgrounds and such. But now that I'm a mother, it turns out that I do.
Really, sometimes I wonder who designs these playgrounds. They are supposed to be places where kids can have a good time, aren't they? But aren't they supposed to offer the parents of these kids at least the slightest bit of relaxation as well? My girls love playgrounds and I like going out with them as well, so by now we've seen quite a few, and it still keeps surprising me how child- and parent unfriendly these places can be. They're situated next to roads with busy traffic, with no fence or border whatsoever. They have slides meant for young kids with stairs so difficult to climb that only super gymnastic at-least-eight-year-olds can mount them by themselves. Or there's dog poop all over the place (seriously dog owners, using a playground as your dog's toilet?).
So no matter how much we like visiting playgrounds, often it's just quite a stressful experience (for me, that is ;)) with two girls running in two different directions, one towards a busy road and the other one towards a ditch. Helping one climbing the slide while the other one wants me to push her on the swing. Making sure that the youngest one isn't hit by another kid on a swing. Releasing the eldest one from a climbing rack that turned out a little too high and scary after all. And meanwhile making sure that her younger sister isn't climbing a super high construction that contrary to the young kids' slide is super easily accessible.
The thing is that actually I don't think it should be all that complex: a good playground for young kids (and their parents) should have a proper fence (with just one entrance) and some playground equipment that is designed with the possibilities of the targeted kids in mind. Water and mud are always a simple and good idea, though not in amounts that make the situation dangerous for any kid that can't yet swim.
Lucky for us we do know a place where they've understood these rather simple things. It's a children's farm with lots of animals, and even better: a big 'gnome fairytale wood'. Everyone can bring his leftover garden gnomes here for a cozy retirement in a big gnome garden where kids can play endlessly with and among the gnomes (the people who supervise the place are super relaxed about kids playing with the gnomes and moving them around). There's a playground with a lot of sand that becomes a giant mud pool after each heavy shower (which the kids love and I -after a deep breath, because they always end up as muddy little piglets- love too, because in the end there's nothing better than seeing your kids whirling in the mud enthusiastically). They have lots of children's bikes and cars and plenty of room for driving them. The play area is quite large, but since there's only one entrance, as a parent it's relatively easy to maintain overview. They even serve coffee and some (super simple) snacks.
The fun thing is that this isn't a super fancy place at all: it's freely accessible and mainly run by volunteers. It's relaxed and a bit messy in a charming way. They don't serve expensive food or drinks and it's all totally mix and match, but then really (so not the fashionable kind ;)).
And while the girls play in the mud, sometimes their mama can even spend a few lazy minutes on a bench. Now that's what I call a playground!
Curious about this place? Here you can find it's details.