Even before we built our outdoor classroom last spring, our space was not conducive to such typical playground activities as riding trikes or even sustained running of any kind.
Not only was our area small, made even moreso when slammed by 20+ kids, but the uneven, cracked asphalt surface created a frustratingly challenging terrain for pedaling and a deceptively treacherous one for running. Rarely a day went by that we didn't have to break out the bandages or ice packs.
Today trike riding is entirely out of the question.
I can't remember the last time we needed a bandage or ice pack while playing outdoors, except by way of emotional comfort. I also can't remember the last time I've heard an adult caution children about using their "walking feet," something we once said to the point of it having almost no meaning.
Indeed, we did keep our "unicycle merry-go-round," which gives kids an opportunity to get up a head of steam, and our gym provides an indoor space that allows for running and riding, so the children of Woodland Park are not entirely bereft of opportunities to go, but for all intents and purposes, we've been forced to slow down when outside. We spend our time moving about in a "real" terrain, one that requires a certain level of diligence and even caution in which to go from one place to another. It's no longer a space comprised, the way it once was, of the apparently smooth, flat planes that characterize urban life. I love watching the 2-year-olds, in particular, totter their way across the ground, eyes down, navigating steps, toys, ledges, rocks, stumps, and other people, developing their sense of balance, pulling up frequently to investigate something they would have missed had they been sprinting from place to place.
We have a lot of opportunities for balancing, clambering, jumping, hopping, and traversing. I feel that I've witnessed an overall improvement in gross motor skills, even without the running and riding.
In my ideal world, of course, we would have a large undulating field in which to run. We would have hills of grass down which to roll and a track of some sort upon which to ride trikes. But we are not going to ever have those things at Woodland Park. No school can provide the entire range of experience a child requires for a complete education. These are the things we lack and Woodland Park, but I would not trade them today for the things we have gained.