Category Archives: Playgrounds

Anthem Kids’ Fitness Festival–Manchester, NH

We went to the Kids’ Fitness Festival put on by the Anthem Manchester City Marathon on the first of November.  It was an appropriate day for something physical.  While we aren’t one of those families who have their children participate in candy buy-backs, it was fun to do something super healthy and active after spending a week acquiring several pounds of candy. (Speaking of which, check out this archive post about alternate uses for your treats!)

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This marathon has been going on since 2007.  There are also a half marathon and relay options. They generally get about 1500 runners but had a big boost after the New York Marathon was cancelled post-Sandy!  300 volunteers make it happen every year, and they have raised over $100,000 for various charities, with a focus on health and wellness.

 

There was a lot to do! It didn’t take too long to get there.  Manchester is across the NH state line, but just barely; it took us about 45 minutes.  Upon arrival, the kids got their own race number.  If you knew an adult running, there was a station to make a cheerleading sign.  If you didn’t, the option was healthy meal collages.

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There were plenty of ways to focus on active kids!  The YMCA and the Girl Scouts came and were helping with everything from obstacle course type games to more organized yoga, zumba, and “boot camp” classes.  If the kids made it around to all the stations, they won a prize.

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There was an adult sports and fitness expo going on in the same building, and they made sure to place the child oriented exhibitors near all the fun stuff.  The dance school had a lot of stuff to play with, the local cross-fit gym was teaching some kid-friendly moves, and the grocery store was giving out healthy samples and playing kiddie nutrition games.  We wandered around a bit, and my kids were intrigued by the adult booths as well!

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The purpose of this write-up isn’t simply to talk up the Manchester City Marathon kids’ event, which we highly recommend but won’t happen again for another year, but the concept in general.  Many adult races will have something similar.  For some, it will be a one mile kids’ “fun run”, others will be more summer camp style, and some will be like this.  This kids’ event is free, and even when there is a fee many races are for charity.

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We’re hikers and playground experts, not runners.  But occasionally we can handle a 5K or so, especially for a good cause. (And as with hiking, you’d be surprised what your little one can take on.  If I was concerned with my own time, it might be another issue, but Bridget and some of her little friends usually have no struggles with 5Ks or less).

Having a fun event like this added on makes it an even bigger draw, since we’re all about getting children outside and moving.  What does your family do to stay active when you’re not at a playground?  Do you prefer to run, walk, hike, bike, swim, dance, or go to a gym? Or maybe try one of the winter sports that will be starting up before we know it!

SMILE Playground, Haskell Field–Sudbury, MA

I’m good at applying that “you only live once” philosophy to trips overseas, trying unusual foods, and when deciding whether I’m too old to hop on that pogo stick.  I’m usually up for anything. I’ve got to remember to apply it on simple afternoon trips to the playground.  We admittedly sometimes think twice if someone suggest a playground a half hour away or more.

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It does take a bit more planning.   When my friend said, “Come on!  A big group of us are going and it is a REALLY cool one!” I knew I had to check it out, and she was right–it was worth the jaunt.

SMILE Playground is a Boundless Playground in Sudbury, MA.  These playgrounds are set to higher accessibility standards, so a higher percentage of kids with varying abilities can enjoy more of them.  In fact, Sudbury mom Lotte Diomede found re-building this playground in 2010 for her child with multiple disabilities so rewarding, she and her friend Susan Brown founded SMILE Mass,  an organization focused on improving accessibility to recreation, travel, and learning opportunities to families with members with disabilities.

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It’s set at Haskell Recreation Area and some other amenities include soccer fields and a skate park.  The playground itself is mostly enclosed; there is no gate, but only a small opening.   In fact, the playground was so large with the fence close enough that it was tough to get full pictures of the structures–I apologize!  Restrooms and a snack bar are attached.

There were three large  playground structures, in addition to a “mobius strip” climber, a large sandbox, swings, multiple bouncers, and covered picnic tables.  There were signs with toddler vs school-age recommendations, but all the structures were very big.  This is probably for accessibility reasons, but everyone benefits.  Another fun stand-out characteristic were the different animal footprint shapes on the ramps.

All sorts of climbing!

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It was nearly a half hour from Stoneham, but as long as 95 isn’t backed up, it is a very easy drive, and I say this as someone who generally prefers to walk or bike!  Given the size and amenities, it is definitely worth grabbing some friends and making of a day trip out of it. 

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Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve–Greenland, NH

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My family has been renting a cottage for a week every summer in York, ME, for 12 years!   It has been a great tradition.  And we have smaller traditions we enjoy each year we go–lobster night, long beach days, rare date nights, and so on.

But what amazes me is how every single year we are always able to discover something new and exciting in that area as well.  We had a wonderful time at Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (often shortened to GBNERR for obvious reasons) and as outdoorsy as we are I’m surprised it took us over a decade to discover this place!

We know we've mentioned several bog walks this year, but Bridget loves things with "bridges" due to her name ;).

We know we’ve mentioned several bog walks this year, but Bridget loves things with “bridges” due to her name ;).

It’s a short jaunt south of York, and also only an hour from Boston (45 minutes from the North Shore, where many of our readers reside) so it makes a great day trip from home, as well.

You can look for actual animal tracks, or try to spot the replicas painted on the boardwalk.

You can look for actual animal tracks, or try to spot the replicas painted on the boardwalk.

To put it simply, an estuary is where the river meets the sea.  At Great Bay, it is the Piscataqua River.  GBNERR covers about 10,000 acres, with about 7000 of them being open water and bogs.  There are many access points, but the main one has a Discovery Center, a Conservation Center, a 1700-foot boardwalk, climbing structures, a replica Native American camp, and more.  Bird watching is famously excellent at estuaries, and the boardwalk makes this one wheelchair accessible.

There were a couple of boat replica play areas--education and adventure!--watch out grandma!

There were a couple of boat replica play areas–education and adventure!–watch out grandma!

...and a wigwam

…and a wigwam

The Discovery Center is open seasonally (generally May-Sept/Oct, Wednesday to Sunday, but check the site for changes) but the grounds are open year round.  Check out their calendar for a bunch of family friendly events.

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The grounds near the Discovery Center are covered with gorgeous gardens full of local plants.  If you don’t consider this too much of an oxymoron, I’d consider them both kid-friendly–playhouses, tunnels, pint-sized Adirondack chairs–and animal friendly, with plants chosen to attract beneficial local insects and birds.

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For more attractions near York, including their amazing playground, check out our post from last year.  This attraction also abuts Portsmouth, NH, a vibrant small city with lots to do. Whether you are staying at the northern beaches or taking a day trip from the Greater Boston area, we recommend checking out Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Rebuild Our Playground

Please RSVP for a couple of hours on August 24 to help during the second (and final) Community Build Day. Lots of jobs for all ages and abilities – and we need a lot more volunteers to make this community effort be as successful as the first Build Day in May.

Use our sign-up sheet at http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/4jie8nj1h0gt/ or email volunteer@playgroundhunt.com to see what needs to be done on August 24

Let’s build OUR playground!!!

This is what we will be installing:

38-76015-1A0000 copy_BE_RebuildingRound (1)August 24, 2013
Community Build Day
A.P. Rounds Playground – corner Broadway and MacArthur, Stoneham MA
RSVP:  http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/4jie8nj1h0gt/ or email volunteer@playgroundhunt.com

Ellis Park Playground–York, Maine

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My reviews have been of places slightly farther afield.  That’s because Angelika has done such a fantastic job of covering many (most?) of the Greater Boston area playgrounds!

Check out the playground map here:

http://www.playgroundhunt.com/blog/map/

Any metro Boston area playgrounds she missed?  Add it to the map and request a review!

Do  you live far away but do you still enjoy the blog?  Do you follow because you know one of us or because you stumbled upon it and like our other focuses? News flash!  The map is international.  It’s true.  Zoom out.  See?  Add your favorite playground!  We may not be able to fly out and review it (we’re not THAT successful yet) but it’ll be marked and a guest post may not be ruled out.

Okay, okay, onto the subject.  At just barely under an hour away, York, Maine actually could arguably be defined as the Greater Boston area.  Either way, this one is worth writing home about (or sending a postcard home–it is a popular tourist area).

It’s got an extra large and impressive big-kid structure, a long and narrow user-friendly toddler structure, see-saws, two sets of swings, and this odd wobbly bridge thing.

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Perhaps an homage to York’s other famous wiggly bridge near Steedman Woods?

We have a lot of favorite things about this playground.  It’s steps away from Short Sands Beach.  Long Sands Beach, which has a big tide swing, awesome tide pools,and is just about exactly a mile long, is also walking distance.

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It also abuts convenient and cheap parking, an arcade, the boardwalk, and more.  Plus, the view is great!  Check out Bridget’s fantastic view of Nubble point from the top of the twisty slide:

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And it is a BIG twisty slide.  See?

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The girls liked how the toddler structure is very long and and skinny.  If your tinier ones don’t enjoy the (much tamer) slides and climbers, they’ll be content just wobble-jog-pacing back and forth on the platform and tagging either end, as small toddlers are wont to do.

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Some more shots of features:

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There’s plenty more to do around York.  If you like nature walks as much as we do there are many options in addition to the Steedman Woods mentioned above:

Mount Agamenticus

Whippoorwill Conservation Area

–And the Seacoast Science Center just over the border in New Hampshire

If you’re in for a bit more adventure there is a new ropes course ten minutes away in Kittery, or check out York’s Wild Kingdom.

This is all in addition to boat tours and whale watches, haunted history tours, many other nearby beach towns and boardwalks and whatever else you might have heard southern Maine and New Hampshire have to offer.

Are you inspired by this extra special playground?  Come help us build our own!  Sign up here:

http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/4jie8nj1h0gt/

(I am going to add this to the end of all my posts until the sheet fills up or until Build Day so you might as well go ahead and do it!  Don’t miss out on this experience!)

 

Suffolk Park Malden

The Playground Hunt Meetup group is off to a roaring start. I guess there are a lot of people out there who want inspiration and motivation to explore new outdoor play spaces (or old favorites with new friends?)

The meetup is here: http://www.meetup.com/Playground-Hunt-active-kids-outdoors/ – we have 10 meetups coming up, so please join us 🙂

This morning we went to a (new to us) playground in Malden. Erin, one of the meetup members suggested it, and everyone who came thought it was quite excellent.

View Larger Map

The playground is a large connected structure, probably more fun for kids over four years old. There are nets, and climbing walls, ladders, and 4 or five slides. They are all fairly steep on the end that is more geared towards the big kids. The end by the stairs is for smaller kids, but they are all connected. There is a tire swing, and a lot of grass to run around on. The field also had a port-a-potty.

The best on this hot day was when the grass sprinklers turned on. Then all the kids were almost instantly wet. And mostly naked. Sigh 😉

And here are my photos from this morning:

Rebuilding Rounds – big grant and next build day

Jen at Rebuilt Rounds“If you build it, they will come” — Kinsella

Okay, SO cliche.  Let’s try again.

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination” — Henry David Thoreau

“A back-to-nature movement to reconnect the children with the outdoors is burgeoning nationwide” — USA Today

“IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL–I JUST LOVE IT!” — Bridget, Lindsay’s 4 year old

Okay, somewhat better, but sometimes you’ve just gotta come out and say it:

Round one for AP Rounds is done and the playground is officially open! Go and play! We’re sorry for the delay–while the first build day itself went quite smoothly, there were a few safety issues to fix, and some tricky scheduling to finalize the clean-up. But now it is good to go just in the nick of time for summer vacation.

Enjoy it as a construction-free zone all you can these couple of months, because the second and final build day is a definite for this year–late summer or early fall!

100Kfor100 logoWe have been awarded a joint grant from the Cummings Foundation and have $25,000 to finish rebuilding Rounds! Yup, there are some other things you also just have to blurt out! We submitted a grant along with 4 other Stoneham community groups (Stoneham Music Parents, Friends of the Fells, Stoneham Light It Up Blue, and the Stoneham High School community garden project) for $100,000. The grant will be divided among the groups and all will benefit Stoneham children.  Lots of thanks to you, Cummings Foundation, and to the non-profits willing to network with us.  Congrats to everyone, and we can’t wait to see what you all do!

 

Lindsay (left) with Joyce Calabro from Friends of the Fells at the Cummings Reception

Lindsay (right) with Joyce Calabro from Friends of the Fells at the Cummings Reception

The main focus of the second build day will be the large, fabulous big kid structure. But there are other things to think about, too, so while you’re picnicking at the new one, brainstorm and look around. Some other things we’re considering adding that day:

Plus, because this is a community build, we’ll need your help deciding again soon! Hard working and ever-helpful Town Engineer Dan is out there taking measurements, and soon we’ll have exciting proposals. Stay tuned for an important vote!

Afterwards, a local fence company has been gracious enough to donate a gate and fence extension to both increase safety and really polish the whole thing off.

We received a lot of feedback after the first build day that most of you had a lot of fun and found it really rewarding. We’re glad, because we’re asking for your expertise, muscle, and generosity one more time! We’ll likely even need more people next time due to the next structure being larger (although some parts will be simpler due to preliminary work being done and the fact we’re all old pros at playground building now and have some experience with what works and what doesn’t). So tell your friends, and we’ll let you know as soon as we have an exact date! Currently we’re thinking either August August 24 or Sep 14.

We’ll be in touch soon with more specific volunteer needs, but in the meantime, work on recruiting your friends and colleagues and let us know if you have connections for in-kind donations for food, landscaping, signage, or whatever else you think we might need.  Thank you!

It’s going to happen! So exciting!

Playground Hunt at the beach

Bucket List Summer 2013


I had a little panic attach a couple of days ago that there weren’t enough days in summer to do all the things I want to do. so here is my list of things I want to do with Alex and Jen this summer. Then I remembered that I should stop and smell the flowers, and the forest, and the ocean. So here is my initial list of thing I want to do this summer. Let me know if there is something we absolutely must do on Facebook.

Camping

use Reserve America http://www.reserveamerica.com/

Playground Hunt at the beachBeaches

The Department of Conservation and Recreation manages several swimming beaches. Freshwater lake beaches are listed here: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/inlandSwim.htm and their ocean beaches here: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/oceanSwim.htm. The ones I would like to get to this year are:

Playgrounds and Sprinkler Parks

Hiking

Summer Concerts

Fruit Picking

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • peaches

Kayaking

We randomly went kayaking on Spot Pond last year and both children, then 2 and 4, greatly enjoyed it and both want to do it again this summer. The blog post from last year is http://www.playgroundhunt.com/blog/kayaking-on-spot-pond/

Specials

I’ve even made a special map with just these locations:


View Summer 2013 Bucket List in a larger map

Please stay in touch, report any errors, let me know about must-see-places, and fun things to do on Facebook (it’s where I frequently post snippets and interact)

playground music

Binney Street Playground

Randomly found a rather nice playground purely by accident. This one is tucked into a corner of a large parking garage, but really surprisingly nice. Maybe not worth making a special trip for, but if you’re hanging around the Kendall Square area near the movie theater,  it’s worth a look.


View Larger Map

The playground is -erm- landscaped with fake grass, but it’s actually quite pleasant. It was super clean and had a very nice picnic area, which even included a mini picnic table for kids. There is a good music corner, and the climbing structure had several interesting panels Alex and Jen found interesting. There are the obligatory slides and climbers of course. No sandbox, though there are some raised bowls, which I think can serve as sand tables or water tables.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Build Day – Rebuilding Rounds

It took over two years to raise the money, but on May 18 a whole lot of volunteers came together and rebuilt AP Rounds, a Stoneham neighborhood playground.

Tania, Lindsay and I are so happy with how everything turned out. So many people contributed to make this a true community event, that I am still slightly teary eyed. At times the last two-plus years have felt lonely and like drudgery, but our first Build Day made it all worth it. And then when my daughter rode up in the Crazy Coupe and declared the playground “Beautiful”, I don’t think anyone had a bigger grin than me.

We had 100-plus volunteers come on the day, and here are some of the organisations and people who came together. Intrepid leaders were:

  • Organizers: Angelika P., Tania W., Lindsay B.
  • Construction: Dan D. (Town Engineer), Mike S. (Team Leader),
  • Food: Tania W.
  • Childcare: Lindsay B.
  • Safety: Robert C.

We had food donations from ZuZu’s CafeHoney Dew DonutsSal’s PizzaSubwayStop & Shop, and a whole lot of neighbors who baked and brought water. We had paint and brushes donated byRound’s Hardware, play sand by Reading Home Depot.

St Patrick’s members of the National Honors Society and the 4th Grade Girl Scout Troup came and helped with childcare and made a documentary for Stoneham TV, and the Stoneham High School Band came and performed. On Sunday, a whole baseball team showed up from Stoneham Baseballto help spread some mulch.

We have a long list of sponsors and donors on our website (http://RebuildingRounds.org), and we ask you to support these local businesses as a sign of your appreciation of their contribution to Stoneham children. They made it possible for us to buy the structures and amenities on the playground.

Next: Big Kid Play Structure

So now that we have put in the monkey bars and the climbing structure for the 2-5 year olds, it’s time to raise the remaining $15,000 or so, to purchase the climbing structure for 5-12 year olds. We have two big grants out and have our fingers crossed that one of them will come through.

If we get a grant, we will then have our second build day at the end of summer 2013. At this second Build Day we would like to install the big kid structure, memorial benches and planters, flower beds, art, a donor sign. So get your thinking caps on what you would like to do.

We have heard that most of the people from the first Build Day enjoyed it so much that they would like to come back, but we are already collecting names of others who would like to come to our second Build Day, or at least stay informed of progress. Please sign up to our email list athttp://eepurl.com/moRMr and tell Angelika (angelika@playgroundhunt.com) you would like to come

We will be looking for sponsors, food and drink donors, building material donors, landscapers (bobcats are good), landscaping materials, musical entertainment, art installations, gardeners, plant donations, … So we will be looking for folks who can help us find all that during the build up. It takes a bunch of people to get ready, so we want to encourage everyone to get in touch and volunteer an hour to make phone calls.

This press release has also been posted at http://stoneham.patch.com/blog_posts/completed-build-day-rebuilding-rounds