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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Our favorite playground

This one's kind of a haul for us, so we don't go there often. We do try to stop by when errands take us in that direction, which they did twice this week. So we rediscovered a forgotten treasure!

Pleasant Kingdom is, quite simply, one of the best playgrounds in our area. It's a unique (at least regionally) structure, composed of wood, recycled plastic planking, rubber and metal. By aesthetic alone it stands out among the cookie-cutter primary-color fiberglass playgrounds you see pretty much everywhere else, from McDonald's to the ball field to every other back yard in suburbia. It just looks more natural, and to me that's very comforting. (I'm not sure whether it matters to the kids!)

The next major mark in its favor is that it's well-shaded. I can't tell you how many hot sunny days have found us bypassing playgrounds because of hot equipment. Not to mention that rubber matting that seems to underly most playsets these days. Don't get me wrong, I do not long for the bad old days of my grade school, where the monkey bars and swings straddled blacktop pads (skinned knees, anyone? How about a concussion? I signed up for one of those!!), but despite my husband's environmentally-conscious grumblings about pesticides, I adore the fact that most of Pleasant Kingdom is carpeted with a thick layer of mulch. And dirt. Real live DIRT.

The structure itself is a delightful maze, with senseless turnbacks and half-levels that leave one feeling like they're navigating an Escher drawing. There is no wasted space: the lookouts have tunnels and cubbyholes nestled neatly beneath them.
There are several "telephone" tubes that criss-cross underneath the structure. It's covered with ladders

and slides and "fireman" poles and climbing nets. Empty space outside the castle itself features obstacle-course type agility equipment

(balance beams, monkey bars, tightropes) and there are some peripheral swings, a zipline, and a few climbing structures made from old tires.

The entire play area is circled by a walking path, so one of my dearest wishes has been granted!! And of course, every good play day needs two ingredients. The aforementioned dirt, and water.

(There's also a ground-mounted sprinkler, which is activated on hot days. Hurrah!)

One of the neatest features is the toddler area. This is not a claustrophobic corner with a few tiny slides. It has real equipment, sized lower and with closer handholds. 

The littlest kids aren't treated like babies. They can do the "big kid" stuff here.

What I really love and appreciate most about Pleasant Kingdom is that it encourages open, creative, imaginative play. I know that sounds like a bunch of armchair wishywashy-ness, but it's true. At many (sigh, most) playgrounds, you will often find adults all over the equipment because they are hovering over their fragile children. Here, you see adults climbing the playset completely on the opposite end from their kids. Maybe looking for them, maybe not. And smiling. Sometimes laughing. It's irresistible...something about the structure is deeply appealing and must be *explored*. 

We've made ourselves a promise that we'll be taking more trips out that way. Soon.

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