Friday, August 9, 2013

The Great Park Adventure

Summer is winding down, and we were looking for an end-of-the-summer adventure that wouldn't break the bank. So this morning, the girls and I began the Great Park Adventure. We scoped out 5 somewhat local playgrounds (within a 45 minute drive) and decided to test them all. Dayna and I came up with 7 factors that would be important in choosing a playground.
  1. Number of things to do (Is it a large enough park to hold your interest?)
  2. Fun factor (Are those activities engaging and entertaining - or in Mom's eyes...How hard was it to get the kids to leave?)
  3. Toddler factor (Are there enough activities for a toddler to be able to play independently?)
  4. Big kid factor (Are there enough activities to keep a big kid occupied?)
  5. Parent factor (This category was Dayna's idea, but I'm glad she came up with it. I looked at things like whether or not there were restrooms, how safe the equipment appeared, if there were comfortable places to sit, was there shade, and how well I could see the entire playground and supervise my kids.)
  6. Imagination factor (Could the play structure be a castle with a trapped princess? A ship in shark-infested waters? How well could the kids use their imaginations while they were playing?)
  7. Overall Score (We talked about how to average the first 6 scores to come up with the final mark. Yes...we're talking math during the summer!)
We then rated each factor on a 5-star scale.

* = Hated it
** = Didn't like it
*** = Liked it
**** = Really liked it
***** = Loved it

We had such a good time today, that we're pretty sure we'll be adding more playgrounds to our list. The best part: the only cost was gas money.

Park #1 - Chestnut Ridge Neighborhood Park at 217th St and Highview in Gretna

View Larger Map
Ready for some fun
Off they go!
Loved the fish bridge
Inside the fish bridge - bones to climb
The rock wall was a giant dinosaur tail
Hard to see, but on the rock wall, there were "fossils" embedded in the rocks.
Second play structure with wiggly monkey bars and a really tall fireman pole. The bridge across the top was super narrow, like a balance beam, with high angled rails.

This was a really fun little neighborhood park. The surfaces were either sand or pea gravel. No restrooms were available. There was a shady spot for a picnic table and one bench.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: ***
  2. Fun factor: ***
  3. Toddler factor: ***
  4. Big kid factor: ****
  5. Parent factor: ***
  6. Imagination: **** (a paleontologist's dream!)
  7. Overall score:  3.3
Park #2 - Peterson Memorial Park at Angus and Cherokee Streets in Gretna

View Larger Map

Buffalo benches
Sister love
See-saws are always a hit in Dayna's book
Off to the stars!
The spinning globe was kind of cool
Pretty small and contained play structure

This was a okay city park. Probably our least favorite of the day. It was quite shady. There were no restroom facilities. There are some picnic shelters nearby, as well as basketball courts. The city pool is next door. The playground surface was barkdust. The equipment was older, but not unsafe.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: ***
  2. Fun factor: ***
  3. Toddler factor: ***
  4. Big kid factor: ***
  5. Parent factor: ***
  6. Imagination: **
  7. Overall score:  2.8
Park #3 - Zorinski Lake - South Playground at 156th and F Streets in Millard

View Larger Map

Let me show you how to climb
Preschool area
A little ark (where Annie and an adorable little blond boy snuck a quick hug and kiss when they didn't know their moms were watching.)
Treehouse with sand buckets on pulleys

There were so many things to do here! The swing structures included traditional swings, toddler swings, chair swings and a tire swing. There was a complete wonderland for smaller children. Lots of shade and benches. There was a full rest area-style bathroom one parking lot away. The play structures were a bit faded with time, but didn't seem to diminish any of the fun. Some of the toddler pieces were made from wood that might have a possibility of splintering, and part of the big-kid structure was made of metal with a possibility of getting really hot. The surfaces were barkdust or sand. The sand in the preschool area was incorporated into play through the treehouse bucket and pulley and some sand tables. There are also plenty of nature trails and paths to explore. This would be an easy park to spend the better part of a day.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: *****
  2. Fun factor: *****
  3. Toddler factor: *****
  4. Big kid factor: *****
  5. Parent factor: **** (so close to 5, but the hot metal and splinters were a bit of a concern)
  6. Imagination: *****
  7. Overall score:  4.8 
Park #4 - Elk Creek Crossing Park at 163rd and Ames in Omaha

View Larger Map

Compact structure with a lot to do
Gorgeous girls!
  This was another fun neighborhood park. It is next door to a fabulous spray park, but for the purpose of our research, we didn't factor in the water play. There were no restrooms. Because it's a new neighborhood, there aren't many established trees for producing shade yet. None of the slides were exceptionally tall, and the entire structure was of moderate size. There were three different kinds of monkey bars. For a smaller structure, there seemed to be a lot of things to do. The entire playground is set up in a circle, and I could see both girls wherever they went. The kids seemed pretty self-sufficient and not needing assistance with any part of the play structure. There is also a large field nearby to get out some extra wiggles. The surface was a sand/pea gravel mix.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: ***
  2. Fun factor: ***
  3. Toddler factor: ****
  4. Big kid factor: ****
  5. Parent factor: ***
  6. Imagination: ****
  7. Overall score:  3.5  
Park #5 - Lawrence Youngman Lake at 192nd and West Dodge Road in Elkhorn

View Larger Map

Time for a picnic
One way to see-saw
And another
Extremely interactive
How Spiderman trains
Drums and patterns
The red balls were chimes that you struck with the eighth notes.
Toddler area - more drums and chimes
That's Dayna near the top of the web

Making some music!
This was an innovative playground, where your body determines the action of the play structure. It involved a lot of climbing and bouncing. Other than the toddler area, there were no slides. There was a port-a-potty on site, and several benches around the playground. Shade is limited. The surfaces were ground rubber or sand. I particularly loved the interactive music and art/patterns areas.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: *****
  2. Fun factor: *****
  3. Toddler factor: *****
  4. Big kid factor: *****
  5. Parent factor: ****
  6. Imagination: ****
  7. Overall score:  4.7
 We'll definitely be doing this again. We will probably be adding Mahoney State Park at some point, but because it's so familiar to us, we may not be as objective. I'd love it if you'd leave some comments on this post to include playgrounds we can explore in the future! 


Paula said...

We love that last last playground too! My only thumbs down is the lack of shade there.

Garey and Janiece said...

There are lots of cool parks in our area that we'll have to explore ... come on out to Oregon!!!

alainaw30 said...

Mom and Dad...go ahead and scope them out for us. You have our criteria and judging scale. Make sure you also include pictures of Dad swinging on the monkey bars!