July 18, 2011

At play in Washington Square Park

This is the inaugural post in an occasional series about playgrounds.  The reviews are based on visits to playgrounds accompanied by a 16 to 24 month old child.  We consider the following factors in our assessment: sun/shade, seating, water, safety, and cleanliness.


Washington Square Park has two playgrounds.  (According to the WSP Reconstruction Parks web page, a third play area will be constructed to incorporate the former "mounds.")  The smaller of the two is ideal for crawlers, new walkers, and small numbers of children and adults while the larger playground in the northeast quadrant of the park can accommodate more people and a wider variety of ages and abilities.  The latter is the subject of this review.  The northeast playground was closed for over a year for renovations.  While it re-opened without official fanfare after the Memorial Day 2011 weekend, the surrounding community of children and adults rejoiced!

The playground has a sandbox, three play structures, an enclosed swing area, water fountains, a splash pad, and seating.  Our  youngster enjoys the "sandbox" - it has an amoeba-like shape.  It is a generous space and is shaded all day by large planetrees so he stays cool.  The park's perimeter fence is adjacent to the northern and western edges of the sandbox and youngster likes to spend some of his downtime peering at the fountains through the bars . 


Also, the concrete base of the fence provides a nice seat.  The sandbox is large enough for several groups of children to play in without overlapping but since it is a popular feature, there are many opportunities to play with others.  The sandbox wraps around the main play structure and its four slides deposit sliders into the sand. It is fun to land in soft sand and perhaps safer, too.  Finally, the sand lot has a generous sand table.



The secondary play structure has a cargo net and stepped and coiled climbers to encourage a variety of climbing and climbers.  Youngster is intrigued by the cargo net and has scaled it a few times.  He uses the tertiary structure - designed for crawlers and new walkers - the least often, though he regained his confidence for slides by using the short, shallow slide on this structure.

The swing area is geared towards older, able-bodied children.  Of the six swings, one is an adaptive swing and one is a bucket swing.  Youngster is often too busy to sit and swing.


There is a lot of water in the playground: two drinking fountains and a splash pad with a spray ring and three concrete turtles that release fine mist from their mouths.  We discourage youngster from using the drinking fountains.  One fountain is partially full of standing water or wet sand.  The other one is dominated by older children -- lots of dirty hands touching the faucet.  Youngster enjoys playing in the splash pad.  The water is cooling and the design offers different types of play. Unfortunately, by the weekend, the splash pad drain is clogged with sand, leaves, and detritus.

The playground tends to be messier and dirtier during the weekend and on some weekday mornings but overall, it is one of our favorite play areas.  We like that the entrance is located on a side path and that the gate locks well.  And we do appreciate all those benches in the shade.

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