Greysen loves to play at the park. She spends about half of her time on the climbing structures and other play equipment, but the appeal of the park is broader than the challenges afforded her by the playground.
We live in a small agricultural community. This community is full of friendly folks, and lots and lots of families. When we are at the park, I feel safe in giving Greysen space to roam and explore her surroundings. Lately, her toddler desire for independent exploration has grown.
To satiate her thirst for independent movement and exploration, we have been spending more time in natural playscapes and other grassy areas.
Natural playscapes offer children challenges that playgrounds sometimes do not. With the uniform steps and six-foot safe zones around play structures (at least, that’s the requirement for ECE yards), playgrounds are generally pretty safe. Safe is good – there is nothing wrong with safe. However, natural playgrounds with uneven surfaces, irregular spaces, and a broad range of gradations require a different kind of focus, balance, and thus engagement.
We are very lucky to now live so close to such varied terrain, but finding spaces to play besides the park are not too hard to find even in urban areas. When I worked on University campuses, we would take the children to play in small grassy areas in the front of buildings. Now, we occasionally walk downtown and play in front of our veterans building and, of course, our community garden.
Where have you noticed children playing and climbing besides the park?