There is something really remarkable about playgrounds.
Who among us doesn’t have core memories of playing with their friends and family at their local park or jungle gym? These moments stay with us and rarely fail to bring about a smile.
Yukon kids have a lot of wonderful options when it comes to outdoor play, and playgrounds provide a perfect opportunity for our little ones to run around, climb, jump and have a grand ol’ time enjoying themselves in the outdoors. Whether you visit Shipyard’s Park, Rotary Park or one of the many hidden gems nestled throughout Whitehorse neighbourhoods, the options are endless.
And, this time of year is perfect for playground visits. The snow has finally melted away and the weather is warm enough that you see spring jackets being thrown to the ground as children excitedly run to their favourite slide or swing. You see parents chatting happily with one another, grateful to have some time outside without being bundled up; and picnic lunches are taking place in the surrounding grassy hills.
The playground is the watering hole for the youngest members of our society. Whether they are beginning to walk or are old enough now to venture over with their friends for some socializing, these communal play areas provide a safe place to let loose, be silly and have fun.
My son was just a few months old when I took him to a playground for the first time. We used to have a small one about a five-minute walk from our home, and I remember being so excited to see what his reaction was going to be when I brought him there. I recall the utter joy that appeared on his chubby little face as I pushed him in the swing, and his giggle as I held him in my lap when we took a ride down the slide. It was mesmerizing for him, and he just got more and more excited as he grew older and was able to navigate the equipment on his own.
It feels like yesterday that I watched him crawl up the little steps and across the platforms. My phone is filled with pictures and videos of my husband and I helping him climb the ladders—making sure we were there to catch him if he lost his balance. Now, I watch him go at full speed, in his best Jack Sparrow-esque run up to those same steps, bypassing the infant swings that he no longer fits into.
In moments like this, I think about how these wonderful places for play also serve to measure the passing of time, revealing just how quickly my child is growing up.
And, what a daredevil he is turning out to be.
I catch myself feeling envious of the utter carefree spirit and unfamiliarity of fear that children have when they’re playing. I see them jumping off of equipment or swinging from the monkey bars, and it brings back all the memories of how much fun it was to see a playground as an endless realm of entertainment—full of games to be had and adventures to be taken, with no fear of falling down or getting hurt.
I remind myself of how fantastic that felt—and the importance of not squashing it whenever I want to call out “Be careful” or “Let me help you.” Sure, keeping them safe is important, but you also don’t want to hold their hand so much that it impedes their demand for independence.
Playgrounds allow children to test themselves—their endurance, stamina and imagination, all the while providing opportunities to develop their bodies and strengthen new skills. And, most importantly, it allows them to just be kids and have fun.
Just last weekend, when I pulled into the parking lot of a local playground, I was treated to the exhilarated squeals of my child as he realized where we were. “Playground!” he exclaimed as he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him and went straight for the tallest slide he could find … one of those metal ones that I’m sure brings to mind the memories of hot steel against bare legs, for us adult folk.
I watched him climb up to the very top, the eagerness for what was to come brightening up his whole face. Pure joy that overflowed as he lunged his little body forward and slid down as quickly as humanly possible. I still don’t know if he actually said “Weee!” or if the view of him just emulated that sound in my brain.
With a thud, he flew off the bottom end of the slide as he landed hard in the sand below. That had to hurt, I thought to myself, but sure enough he looked back at me and laughed.
“I landed on my butt!” he declared proudly, as though he had achieved some masterful victory. I couldn’t help but encourage and cheer him on as he raced to do it again.
This experience may not be something he’ll remember as he gets older. But I know that as long as the playground remains a place that he wants to go, I’ll be happy to take him. Mostly because I know that the special times we share together, playing games and fooling around at these magical places, are moments of his childhood that will stay with me forever. For that alone, they’re oh-so-special.