The fun things about parks for kids are there general attributes, swings, slides, roundabouts and little bit of climbing. But I have noticed that before the child gets to have fun on a slide they have to almost be as physically able as you would have to be to climb a mountain.
No longer do you often have a simple steps and then a slide. Or a nice simple easy climbing frame. Everything is step ladders, rope ladders, mountain ramps, gaps, and poles.
We recently went to a park and Lily was gutted that she could not get on the slide easily. The slide was definitely for her age range. It wasn't to big of a slide and she would of loved to slide down it. BUT it was impossible for her to get to the slide itself. Even with me helping I couldn't get her up easily.
1. Up the Rope Ladder Steps - These steps were so wobbly and the gaps between them were huge. Lily did not feel safe or secure at all and found it really difficult to cross from step to step. Even with me holding on to her they were incredible difficult to cross. So we gave up on these.
2. Wobbly Pole - unless your really good at climbing poles which even most adult aren't good at, then this is more for sliding down and not a way up.
3. Rope Net, to then Balance across Bars to the Platform - Again, not easy and there was no chance this was going to be a way up for Lily.
4. Get lifted up onto the slide platform by an adult - (If your strong enough to lift your 4 year old above your head) I wasn't.
So, much to Lily's disappointment we did end up giving up on going on the slide.
I realise that not all parks are like this, our local one is a simple slide, steps and then slide down. The one across from the local school, its a really high slide, but this has steps built into a walkway all the way up. Safe, easy and Lily found it brilliant that she could simply walk up and slide down. In fact she did this over and over for at least 20 minutes. This also meant that I could relax, knowing she could happily play safe without my help and I didn't need to be panicking that she was going to fall and break her neck.
So why are they starting to make parks so difficult?
I asked a friend who works on the council and works on looking after and building the parks. She said that it is to encourage exercise and muscle building and that each thing on a park will be made for the ability of an age range.
But is the park above really helping with exercise? Not in my opinion. And since when has walking up lots of steps to get to a slide not been exercise?
I know which park Lily got more exercise from and that was the one that had easy steps for her to climb up to be able to slide down.
I am all for parks encouraging exercise. Thats why we take our kids to them at the end of the day, to burn energy. But at what point does a park become too much about exercise and not enough fun. Not to mention that a difficult park also takes away a child's independence to play alone which is also important for a child's development.
Then you have to think about a child's self esteem. I always encourage children to try things but as I have mentioned not all children have the confidence. I can take an example where a young girl around 8 was wanting to go on the really big slide on a park, but the only way up was the mountain slants which all had big gaps criss crossing to get to the top. She was in tears because she didn't feel safe enough to do it and watched the children who did feel safe manage to do it. In the end, I helped this little girl and went up with her and held onto her while she did it. But it shouldn't have to be this way. Parks shouldn't be so difficult that they make a child cry.
I think parks should have the easy option and the harder option at all times. Not all children have the confidence or ability to try the harder ones and children get more encouraged to try the harder options when they feel like the have accomplished the easier ones. If that park above wasn't made for Lily's age range then where is the slide for her age range? 4 year olds love slides as do children even younger.
I think parks need to think less about what they can do to build muscles and develop motor skills and just concentrate on the fact that they will do all that anyway but while also doing the most important thing...having FUN!
I would love to know your opinion on the subject.