For the past 18 months I have been part of a playground committee that is raising money for a new playground at my daughter’s elementary school. It’s a very worthwhile project — no one can deny the importance of a playground or the role it plays in child development — but the process of getting a new one is, frankly, brutal.
I wrote about our struggles in a column for the Calgary Herald that went up online on Thursday. It appears in the print edition (Weekend Life section) of Saturday’s paper. You never know what the response to this kind of story will be. Would I come across as a big whiner? Would people be sympathetic to our plight and dig deep to donate thousands of dollars? Or would they tell me to take a reality pill, shelve our extensive (and costly) naturalization and play structure plans, and spend money on soccer balls instead?
Most of the feedback I have received has been supportive. I’ve gotten e-mails from fellow moms who are on playground committees at other schools (and thus going through the same trials and tribulations) telling me to hang in there. Other readers have been shocked to find out that, 1. New playgrounds are very expensive, and 2. It’s up to parent groups to raise funds to pay for them, as the cost is not government- or school board-funded.
There have also been comments implying that school playgrounds are unnecessary extras. One reader suggested we take out the play structure and buy balls for the kids to chase around. “Way more fun than swinging, climbing, and sliding,” he wrote on the Herald website. “Get them playing pick-up sports.” Another reader wrote: “You want a 270 thousand dollar playground — that’s going to take a lot of effort and a lot of gin. A playground area is nice, it’s not a necessity.”
I like her idea about more gin, but I disagree with her comment that a playground is not a necessity. While organized sports promote teamwork and certainly have their place, a playground is a gathering place where children can engage in creative play that is not directed by adults. As structured activities take over our busy lives, this kind of unstructured play time is crucial to child development but is sorely missing.
Our future play park will have both an interesting play structure, as well as elements such as boulders, logs, trees and stumps that can be incorporated into imaginative games at recess — and, after school hours, by all the kids in the community. It’s worth noting that naturalized playgrounds like the one we have planned are gaining momentum as educators realize the limitations of lone play structures.
My sincere hope is that we can raise enough money to see our play park become a reality. What do you think? Are we out to lunch or should we keep the dream alive over more G&Ts?