Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kids Today Know What's What

A few days ago I wrote about how climbing apparatuses, the centerpieces of most modern playgrounds, are largely a waste of space, at least when it comes to schools, backyards, and other places where the same children play day-after-day.

Having observed thousands of children at these playgrounds, I've noticed that most kids hit that climbing structure hard for the first 15-20 minutes or so, then they're on to other things. Families with climbers in their yards complain that their kids never use them except when briefly made new again by having friends come to visit.

When I wrote this, having not really made a formal study of it, I was more or less stating a hypothesis that I knew to be true in its essence although not necessarily in its particulars. Little did I know that this assertion would be put to a test only a few days later.

Our 5's class paid a visit to The Great Harvest bakery in Lake Forest Park, which is owned by the grandparents of one of our students. We were returning the visit to our school the day before by "Kernel Wheat" (really grandpa) who prepared us for our field trip by teaching us about how wheat becomes flour, then bread. 

It was a great, hands-on experience for the kids. We were invited to plunge our hands into a large bag of wheat berries . . . 

. . . got to stand inside the huge oven, examine the giant mixer . . . 

. . . and make our own personalized loaf of bread. Addison was particularly proud of his nautilus shell shaped loaf.

While the bread baked, we took a sack full of cookies across the way to a small pocket park on the north shore of Lake Washington where there was a fairly impressive climber. The kids made a beeline for it, swarming up its ladders, across its bouncy bridges, and down its slides. I made a point of noting the time. One aspect of the set up that impressed me was that adjacent to the big, modern, right-out-of-the-box climber, stood an old school jungle gym like I used to play on as a boy, with its grid-like structure, hard steel bars, and built in monkey bars. I wondered if this would somehow affect the results of my test.

And I was proven wrong, if not in the big picture, at least in the specifics. It, in fact, took less than 10 minutes before the climber was bereft of children. 

During the following half hour or so, an occasional kid would make a solo foray up the ladder and down the slide, but otherwise we much preferred the beach, the dock, and the soccer ball we found there. Kids today know what's what.

Despite having eaten dessert first in the form of those cookies, we were all still sufficiently hungry upon our return to also devour our freshly baked bread.

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Phoebe Ophelia said...

My two-year-old neglects the climbers at our local parks and always has. Instead she wanders around and around. If there are spinnies, she spins them; if there's a swing, she usually wants a few pushes, but not many. If there are rocks, she picks up one in each hand. If there is a hill, she runs up and down. If there is a fence, she knocks on it. If there is grass, she runs and runs.

I had a concerned parent early one morning tell me that if we came back closer to noon, then she could watch the other kids and learn how to play in the park properly. I wish I'd said something. I think she's playing exactly how she should.

LeXroks said...

At my work I have witnessed the same thing with our jungle gym. The first time the kids can go at it, they are all over it for about 10-20 minutes, and then they grow bored and move on to something else.
Our jungle gym though is a giant boulder,I should say now that our kids are all over 5 years old and are very closely supervised and it is located right next to a nurse station. The boulder is about 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide, so about 10 kids can be on top of it at a time.

It's also amusing when the kids grow bored of climbing on it and decide to build lean-to forts against it. Or sometimes they just like to hit it with sticks