Since having kids, I've heard a lot of people joke about how their parents used to send them outside to play, maybe telling them not to come home until dark. The world seems to have changed, we all lament. Kids have play dates, instead of just going down the street to play with other neighborhood kids. Kids stay inside and play video games or watch TV instead of biking and running around the block. Back in our day, our parents told us to go outside and find something to do!
I don't disagree with any of that, but I remember it a little differently. I remember begging my parents to let me go out and play. We had a swing set and a jungle gym in our back yard. My best friend lived behind me, a quick jump over a low fence with a big rock right at the spot we'd climb over. We had tall trees for climbing and little traffic on the streets around my block. The park with a creek and the pool were right down the street, and more friends were a couple streets over. I always wanted to be outside playing with my friends. My parents didn't need to send me out! There was so much to do outside that I wanted to stay out all day!
I really like the neighborhood we live in now. There are lots of other kids and a nice pool. The playgrounds, however, are only okay. There are some of those plastic contraptions with something to climb up and in and a slide. Even when my kids were toddlers, they got bored on the small playground rather quickly. To get to the swings, we have to walk across the entire neighborhood, which my kids can't do on their own at this point. The neighborhoods just aren't the same these days.
During the years when my kids were babies/toddlers/pre-schoolers, we would go out front to do sidewalk chalk and bubbles, and maybe a few of the kids close by would join, but it was only occasionally and had to be constantly monitored. The next few years, the kids were learning to ride bikes and scooters and the like, but my kids are not ones to clamor to do it on their own and head off around the block by themselves. So it was always a lot of effort on our part to go out and help them and be with them. It's always a good time, but it's more limited time since there are so few free hours we adults seem to have.
Now that my kids are a bit older, they are making friends in the neighborhood and wanting to do things with the other kids. But what are they to do with the other kids?
Well, we happen to have a very large backyard--one of the largest in any of the houses in this neighborhood (or in the nearby neighborhoods). We have plans to build a deck and re-do some of the landscaping at some point, but not for a while. The kitchen windows look right out into the backyard,
We've tried sending the kids out back to play soccer or whatever else, but it never lasts very long. The kitchen windows look right out into the backyard, so I can watch them from inside while making dinner or doing the dishes, so I would like to send them out back more.
So after much research, I have found what I think will be the solution! I found this monkey bars/swing/slide playset! I have read that it goes up to age 12, so we still have a few years that we can get good use out of it--not to mention that I'm pretty sure I will love it and I'm WAY over 12!
It is being delivered today, and we plan to set it up this weekend! I showed the kids before I bought it to make sure they thought they'd really use it, and at first my daughter was hesitant about the monkey bars, since she says she can't really do them. She also asked if I would push her on the swing, since she's not very good at pumping herself. And I'm thinking "Oh, my! We are DEFINITELY getting this now! I can't have kids who can't climb and swing on things!" Those were my staples in play when I was growing up, and I realize it is likely because I had the equipment in my own backyard and went out on it all the time. To her credit, after thinking about it she said she really did want the playset so that she could practice the monkey bars and get better at them. I added she should do that with the swing, too, and she agreed.
I want my kids to be able to go out back and have something right there to play on, something right in our yard so they can't say they are bored and come right back in. I want to give my kids the ability to develop their coordination and sense of adventure! Give them something that will help them grow and try new things and develop their athletic abilities. I want something their friends in the neighborhood want to come over and play with. I want them to have a fun backyard, like I did growing up. I want them to beg to go outside and play, even if I have to cook dinner or do other household stuff.
And I want the ability to watch them play on a summer evening while I sit on the (adult) glider and drink a glass of wine. Maybe I'll swing on some monkey bars, too.