What we’re doing for fun this summer: The Great Playground Challenge

16 Jul

Making a mountain out of a molehill isn’t always a bad thing.

They say not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but oftentimes at our house, we do, and we do it on purpose.

When I was a teacher, I always found that if I really talked something up, like an upcoming unit of study, the kids would be super-enthused about it, just because I was. Their response was all in how I presented something to them. They followed my lead. With our own kids that’s often what we do.

We make mountains out of molehills.

Today’s post about our Great Playground Challenge is one example of how you can present something to your kids in such a way that you can get them enthused about a simple thing, and have fun with it.

Here’s how it started:

It was the girls’ first day home from school for the summer. Don was at work and it was my deadline day for the newspaper. Sometimes I can type ahead of a deadline day to get things in early, but the end of the school year was so crazy that I could not. I had to spend their first day off, typing. They got their own breakfast, they played on their own and watched some TV. Not the way I normally like to kick off the summer, but when you work from home, sometimes that’s how it has to be.

The zip line at this playground is what they loved most. Five stars….

As a reward, I decided to stop by one of the city playgrounds on the way to the grocery store later that afternoon (also not a fun first day off task, but one that had to be done if we were to eat dinner that night.)

This playground is one we’d been to years ago, but not recently, and I remembered it as being a particularly fun playground with some unique equipment. It was on the way, so I stopped off there for an hour or so. I brought my book to read, my camera (which is almost always with me) and a bottle of water.

I wasn’t thinking of making any mountains out of molehills yet.

They had a blast. They played for the hour and when we got in the car to go to the store, they were chattering away about this particular playground and how it compared to other ones they’ve been to. Just the day before on the last day of school they’d played on the city playground that’s adjacent to our school, so they were comparing it to that one as well.

All their conversation got me thinking. I thought of all the playgrounds in our city and surrounding areas. I thought of all the different types of equipment on the various playgrounds we’ve been to in the past. I remembered waaayyyy back to The Blizzard of 1978 when my dad made up a game to keep us busy when we had no electricity for a week. He called it The Great Race. I was seven and I still remember it.

My wheels were turning for sure.

Overall opportunities for fun are part of the playground experience, not just the equipment.Shady spots are great for just hanging out.

The Great Playground Challenge was born, right there in my car, on the way to Aldi’s.

I said to the girls, “We should spend part of our summer going to all different playgrounds and rating them to see which ones you like best. Then by the end of the summer we can see which one is your top favorite of all of them.” I asked them to think about how they’d rate the one we’d just been to.

They thought this was a great idea and they were very excited to get started playing on different playgrounds right then and there, but we had to wait.

We did our shopping and when we went home I took our big roll of white paper and made a poster for the wall outside their bedroom. I used bright colors and made it look exciting. I made a chart where we could put the names of the playgrounds and spaces for them to rank each one themselves as well as a space for an overall rating.

A “fancy” new poster to record our findings makes it that much more exciting, and it’s something we can look back on for years to come.

I wrote in the names of the playground near our school and the playground we played on that day. I showed the girls how the chart would work and I let them rank the two playgrounds we’d done so far. A quick lesson in averages and we figured out their overall ratings.

Game on.

Practically every day they ask if we can go to a playground. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. Even if we’re driving at night, they spot one and ask if we can stop. Usually we can’t.

But, the point is, this is such a simple thing. Playing on a playground is not an expensive outing. It’s free. It’s beyond Caroline in a lot of ways but oftentimes she’ll come for the ride just to see the playground and hang out, even if she’s too big to play on the equipment. It gets them outside, active and thinking. It keeps them enthused, and I’m pretty sure it’s something they’ll remember for years to come.

I have no idea how many we’ll get to over the summer. I made spaces for ten playgrounds, but there’s plenty of room for more if we get to them. We’ll see how the summer goes. There’s lots of other fun stuff to do, so The Great Playground Challenge is often for those days when there otherwise would be “nothing to do.” Alex has made it a personal goal to be able to master the monkey bars by summer’s end, so this will help her achieve that goal, hopefully, before school starts.

It’s just one example of a time when you *should* make a mountain out of a molehill.

There are playgrounds all over the state, just waiting for us to come and try them out.

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5 Responses to “What we’re doing for fun this summer: The Great Playground Challenge”

  1. Susan Dubuque July 16, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Check out the impossible dream near the Kent co y. My kids use to love it….

  2. Sue Meyerson July 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    again, you are amazing…and, there is a great playground in Edgewood, right near the village..down the street from the church..can’t remember what street it is on, but someone around there will know…it is one of my favorites..lots of stuff to “imagine” and a nice shady picnic spot, too!

    • thewholebagofchips July 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion! I need to start a list of all the ones suggested today!

  3. Lauri July 18, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    We did something similar a few years ago. The boys’ favorite was Impossible Dream and the Hasbro one at Roger Williams. Have fun!

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