Tag Archives: outdoors

Top 5 Playgrounds from Summer 2012

We went to a lot of playgrounds this summer, and here is a short list of our five most favorite ones.

Spaulding Playground (Wakefield) is a beautiful playground right on the shore of Lake Quannapowit in Wakefield. It has a large structure for 5-12yo, a separate structure for under-5yo, a very large number of swings, plenty of benches, a water fountain, a beach (no swimming though). We can spend hours and hours here and then go across the road to get a bite to eat.

PlaygroundHunt at Spaulding Playground


Greenwood Park Playground (Stoneham) is a large, shady playground in the north of the Middlesex Fells, just opposite the Stone Zoo. There is a huge sandbox, liberally stocked with donated trucks and shovels, a very fun big-kid structure with our favorite slide ever: THE Tunnel Slide. This playground also has a structure with slide for toddlers, several picnic tables, a circle of six sit-on wobbly toys, and my favorite: a large stone wall, full of possibilities. It is easy to go for a short hike through the Fells and explore the forest and marsh.

Playground Hunt at Greenwood Park


Paulina Street Playground (Somerville) is right in the middle of Davis Square in Somerville.  This is a very friendly playground, where we have had many great experiences with other parents supervising and encouraging their kids to share and be kind. We call this the Yellow Playground because both the under-5yo and the older kid structures are bright yellow. There is also a nice club-house with a several (!) donated play kitchens, a beautifully designed, shaded sand river, some swings, and a water-pump play feature. Alex and Jen mostly run around in circles here…

Paulina Street Playground

Springs Brook Park (Bedford) is a pay-for-use facility operated by the Town of Bedford. It is a man-made lake with lots of lifeguards and zero-depth entry from the sandy beach all around. The sprinkler park is our favorite in the Boston North area. There is also a playground, but the surfaces are usually boiling hot, so we just spent our time going between sprinkler park, lake, and the very reasonably priced concession stand.

Spring Brooks Park

North Point Park (Cambridge) is near the Museum of Science, beautiful, huge, and rarely visited, perhaps due to the two-hour parking limit nearby. There is a separately fenced toddler playground with water feature, several slides, several innovative structures, and a shaded picnic area. Outside the toddler area are three other huge big-kid play structures and a sprinkler park. From this playground you can also see trains and boats on the harbor. We always leave here happy.

Playground Hunt at North Point Park in Cambridge

Stoneham Moves

Childhood obesity is a national problem, and the White House has an actual task force and separate program to address related issues. The Let’s Move! campaign is aimed at all sectors of the community (since all are needed to come together to make a difference for our children).

I am a huge advocate of outdoor play, and even though I do let my children watch some television, I really try to have them be outside for at least two hours each day. Sometimes that’s a lot of hard work.

I have been following the Let’s Move! website, which has ideas for eating healthy, staying active, and resources for:

The most recent campaign was to celebrate the Olypmics.  There was a national call to host a meet-up to celebrate, honor athletes and of course to do lots of running, jumping, throwing,…

Somehow I ended up being the Stoneham coordinator. (I’m not sure how these things happen either) and we had a very pleasant, low-key event on the Stoneham Town Common last Saturday. We had a bunch of medal crafts, mostly involving stickers, though I had a lot of fun with glue, paper, cardboard, salt-dough, and glitter paint the night before. I brought along our soccer balls, baseballs, bats, diving sticks to serve as relay batons, face paint and stuff to make competitor bibs.

There were 15 of us, and I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I’ve been vaguely thinking of turning “this” into regular events to help me get motivated to get outside even more. If you are interested, please contact me at angelika@playgroundhunt.com and in the meantime you can visit the Let’s Move! website (http://www.letsmove.gov), the Meetup.com page (http://www.meetup.com/Lets-Move/Stoneham-MA/) or my regular blog at Playground Hunt (http://www.playgroundhunt.com/blog/).

Here’s an excerpt from the Let’s Move! website about their mission:

Let’s Move! aims to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and to create new opportunities for families to move together.

  • Active Families: Engage in physical activity each day : a total of 60 minutes for children, 30 minutes for adults.
  • Active Schools: A variety of opportunities are available for schools to add more physical activity into the school day, including additional physical education classes, before–and afterschool programs, recess, and opening school facilities for student and family recreation in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Active Communities: Mayors and community leaders can promote physical fitness by working to increase safe routes for kids to walk and ride to school; by revitalizing parks, playgrounds, and community centers; and by providing fun and affordable sports and fitness programs.

Originally published by Angelika on Stoneham.Patch.com at this link: http://stoneham.patch.com/blog_posts/stoneham-moves

Kayaking on Spot Pond

We did a spontaneous kayaking expedition in June – here are some pictures and info, because it was so easy, simple, enjoyable and a huge success for us.

One afternoon we just drove over to Spot Pond Boating (website here) and asked to rent a kayak. No booking required. They fitted us with lifejackets and had us in a double kayak in about 15 minutes. It was $20 for an hour on the lake and the staff were super helpful, safety conscious, and friendly.


Came back from our first overnight camping trip in one piece!

We joined the Mass Audubon Family Campout on Saturday, which included a canoe trip on the Ipswich river, a WHOLE LOT of s’mores and more wildlife than we could shake sticks at. It was also the first time I had taken Alex and Jen camping. They had a great time! – hurray – and didn’t want to leave. It was a really good trial camping actually, because Angela and Cheri from Mass Audubon had plenty of activities.

I suspect that’s the secret to a good camping trip with preschoolers

Also, no cooking was required. I’m a bit nervous about breaking out the old hiking stove and actually cooking a dinner when we go for a longer trip. Anyway, no cooking, just snacks and Angela and Cheri put on a nice breakfast with several pots of coffee – bliss.

So we set up our tent and played with the roughly 3 bazillion dragonflies before heading down the path to the Ipswich River. Jen got the cutest little life jacket, and both Jen’s and Alex’ Elmos got to help with the paddling by holding onto the paddle. Next time we apparently have to bring lifejackets for the Elmos. Angela did most of the work in the canoe, and since she was the front leader, we got see see a lot of wildlife (before we scared it away for the others). White birds, blue birds, geese, ducks, logs, cardinal flowers – and I didn’t bring my camera because I don’t have a water-proof bag.

While canoeing:

Alex “Mama, this is the most beautiful place on the WHOLE earth. I love all the birds and dragonflies and beaver lodges.”


Alex (two minutes later): “Mama, I’m bored. Can we go back?”

Mama: SIGH 😉

We got back to land just as the sun set and I carried Jen all the way up the hill to the farm buildings, Alex bravely ran through the bugs. And I have to say that those big black flies that take big chunks out of your skin really HURT! I used a whole bottle of mosquito repellent on us during the night – the mosquitoes were definitely out in force.

But so were the marshmallows. 🙂

Jen passed out mid-sentence sprawled across the tent at about 11pm. Alex finally put down his tremendously fascinating glow-stick about midnight. And then both woke up screaming about 5:30am. Sorry camping neighbors! That’s how my kids deal :-S Angela and Cheri put on that aforementioned excellent breakfast, we stayed and played on the grass until about 9am. At 9:03am both children were passed out in the car on the way home.



Playground Hunt offspring at Springs Brook Park

Bedford Water Park – Springs Brook Park

Since the couple of photos I posted on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PlaygroundHunt) got so many questions about the where, what, and when, I figured I better write a slightly longer post about the awesomeness that is Springs Brook Park, or possibly Spring Brooks Park. Who knows? The GPS address is 171 Springs Rd, Bedford MA 01730

Ignoring various spelling on various locations, all I can say is that Alex, Jen and I have thoroughly enjoyed this place for the last three summers.

It is a public, man-made beach with sprinkler park, lake, playground, and a very reasonable concession stand. It costs money to get in, but the maximum per day per family is $25. Bedford residents can get a season pass cheaply. They only take cash.

The staff are superb, there are lots of very attentive lifesavers, the place is clean, the people are friendly.

We bring a picnic blanket, snacks, lots of sunscreen, and swim stuff. I’m looking into buying a beach shelter thing, just because the trees shade the side of the lake away from the sprinkler park, and I like to plop down in between.

Playground Summer Challenge

What happened to playgrounds as neighborhood hubs? – a guest post by Jean Oram

HomeAs the national nonprofit KaBOOM! kicks off its 2012 Summer Playground Challenge — which challenges families to explore as many playgrounds as you can this summer and offers prizes for your playground visits —  playground lover Jean Oram shares how people can revitalize playgrounds and bring them back as neighborhood hubs.

Playgrounds used to be a social hub for neighbourhoods, particularly in the summer, but are less so nowadays. However, you could argue that playgrounds are even more important now when it comes to building healthy, playful neighbourhoods. With tall backyard fences and attached garages, neighbours are less likely to meet each other or their kids. Do your neighbours look out for your kids? For your house when you are away? Are they someone you know well enough to call on in an emergency? Playgrounds can serve as a way for neighbours to meet each other, unwind, and socialize. Not to mention all the great benefits to the kids playing in them! Below are some ideas for ways to revitalize playgrounds as neighbourhood hubs:

How Can We Revitalize Playgrounds and Bring Them Back as Neighbourhood Hubs?

  • By visiting playgrounds with our kids this summer we can make others feel safer about sending their kids out to play (safety in numbers). This relates to Lenore Skenazy’s, author of “Free Range Kids”, idea of reseeding playgrounds with kids.

  • Use KaBOOM’s free Playgrounds and Tag! apps, and the Map of Play to find local playgrounds wherever you are and keep your kids  playing all summer. You can also use these tools to set up playground playdates, and even rate playgrounds.

  • Spend time at playgrounds to show your local town or city that they are valued spaces worthy of maintaining. It also reduces the chance of vandalism and deters people from using them for reasons other than play.

  • KaBOOM!’s Summer Playground Challenge is a great way to motivate and inspire your kids to visit as many playgrounds as possible during the summer and win some cool prizes. Maybe you could even start a friendly neighbourhood competition!

  • We can show our kids that we value outdoor play and that we, as citizens, can take action and responsibility for our playgrounds by doing as Angelika Paul of Playground Hunt did – revitalizing, updating, and fixing up a local playground. Your kids will feel an accomplished sense of ownership for the playspace like you wouldn’t believe! My daughter asked the city for a garbage can at her local playground and feels pride and ownership in keeping it clean. It’s also one of the least vandalized playgrounds in town!

But the biggest thing we can do for playgrounds and our kids is to use local playgrounds this summer. So, let’s get out there! I’m the one inventing playground fun such as Under Whales (Under Ducks on the swings, only more swooshy). Come say hi. I’m always looking to meet other moms and dads.

Jean Oram is a mom, writer, skier, hiker, and playground lover. Her daughter loves the more challenging playgrounds while her son is most content in the baby swing. You can find her playing on her blog at www.itsallkidsplay.ca as well as pinning fun and games (literally) on Pinterest, sharing fun stuff on Twitter as @KidsPlay, and on Facebook. Let’s play! Get motivated to visit more playgrounds with your kids this summer by joining the 2012 Playground Challenge! The three top Challengers will win a trip for two to DC and all participants can win great prizes throughout the summer.

Summer To-Do List


North Point Playground (Cambridge – map) – big water feature, superb playgroundS near Museum of Science (read my review at this LINK)

Sgt Connelly Playground (Wakefield – map) – by Lake Quannapowit beach (wading, no swimming) (read my review at this LINK)

Spring Brook Park (Bedford – map) – man-made lake with sandy beach, playground, and huge sprinkler park, concessions (read my review at this LINK)

Grimmons Playground (East Somerville – map) – separate fenced toddler area, big kid playground, sprinklers – beautifully designed (read my review at this LINK)

Cedar St Playground (Cambridge – map) – shady playground with sprinklers (read my review at this LINK)

Simond’s Park Playground (Burlington – map) – large playground with structures for all age groups (read my review at this link)

Fort Point Playground  (South Boston – map) – large park by harbor with beach and well designed playground (not sure where my review went)

Lederman Park (Boston – map) – by MGH/Museum of Science – never made it but it looks awesome from Storrow Drive.

Bradley Palmer Wading Pool and Playground (Topsfield – map) – wading and sprinkler park – this will be the summer we make it!



4th July Fireworks – Lake Quannapowit


Things to Do

Harbor Island boat trip


Ocean Beach – Nahant Beach, Wingaersheek Beach,…

Boating Wakefield – kayak rental

Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm – Friday Evening Hayride and Campfire

Mass Audubon Ipswich Family Campout

Mass Audubon Joppa Flats exploration



New England Aquarium

Discovery Museums

USS Constitution

Museum of Science

Franklin Park Zoo – Zoorassic Park and Wild Adventures Class

Stone Zoo – Birds of Prey and Wild Adventures Class


Things to Make

Follow Me on Pinterest <– where I post all the crafty stuff I plan to make

Some recent pins:


Mass Audubon Class – Family Exploration Drumlin Farm

Last Wednesday was the first of the Mass Audubon Family Exploration Class. Tomorrow is the next class, so I thought I’d better catch up with myself and post some pictures ASAP.

The class involved reading a story about sheep shearing, carding some wool, and walking down the hill to the farm. There the kids (and me) got to feed the goats, their kids, the sheep, and the lambs. We got sneezed at by a goat, at which there may have been some scared crying, and we got to go into the sheep paddock with the instructors.  Then we checked out the big red barn, where Alex mostly wanted to make dust cloud.

After class we had lunch at the picnic area, and then went back to visit the chickens, the fox, rabbit, and owls.

Both children fell asleep on the way home and napped for 2 1/2 hrs. Woohoo!

Hey – where are all the pictures? Turns out posting pictures is not such a good idea after your husband tries to “fix” your computer. He wanted to fix a sticky key that had some apple juice spilled on it, but he had two screws left over when he was done. The computer is currently in intensive care at a local computer repair place, so for now I will only post the couple of pictures I can scrounge off my phone and Facebook. One photo of the chicken Alex talked with for aaaaages, and one of the lambs we got to try and touch since we had staff.

Mass Audubon Family Exploration Class

Instructor: Drumlin Farm Staff
Audience: Family (suitable for children ages 0 – 7 yrs)
Fee: Adults $72.00m / $87.00nm, Children $72.00m / $87.00nm

Spring is here! Let’s go exploring! When will the bluebirds and bobolinks return to make their nests? Which animals will have babies during this season? Do the sheep like their new haircuts? Find out as we meet different animals – both farm and wild, and participate in a variety of hands-on and outdoor activities. Bring your curiosity and excitement as we wander through the farm and the sanctuary


First Mountain Bike Ride

Last summer, Alex finally after much pleading and lots of bribery decided to give up diapers. Nothing had worked – he preferred diapers over chocolate, stickers, toy cars,… BUT then he saw the bike: Strider PREbike Balance Running Bike in a magazine and instantly got on with potty training. Thirty days of choosing to wear underpants later, I ordered the bike, to discover that they had sold out in the entire country.


Well, we went to all the local bike shops and tried out various helmets. That took up some of the waiting time. When it finally arrived, he was actually a bit scared by it. And it took a few weeks to really get him to be brave on it. In the last few weeks he has wanted to go over bumps and do little jumps 😀 (proud and terrified mama).

Then last week we ended up at Greenwood Park playground, which is exceedingly nicely situated directly across from the Stone Zoo with a big parking lot to access a corner of the Middlesex Fells. I used to walk my dogs there. We played at the playground for over an hour and then both Alex and Jen wanted to check out the forest. Alex took his bike. Jen walked and I stayed in the back and encouraged them to look for rocks and sticks, for a craft project I’ve had in my mind for about 33 years (ah childhood memories).

Well, we didn’t find the perfect rocks, or the perfect sticks, but we looked. And we saw. I thought it was the most brilliant outing ever, since it was the first time that both had actually paid attention to outside. I used to do a lot of hiking and climbing in New Zealand and always found it very peaceful to be outside. And I must admit, I’d been somewhat discouraged when Alex repeatedly declared in the past that he just wanted to stay home and play with cars and trucks.

But they both really liked it. Jen may have even burst out crying when I told her that we didn’t have enough snacks and water to last us all day. But we were out in the forest for almost an hour, and both really wanted to go back the next day with lots of snacks. 😀

Anyhow, here are some pictures of Alex’ first mountain bike ride, and Jen’s first big hike.

And incidentally, the playground has been cleaned up for spring and has new woodchips – woohoo!


Apologies for the long absence. Turned out that that cough I had was a nasty virus that did a number on my kidneys, and even though I think I have averted kidney failure, there have been lots of medical issues going in my life.  Things have been slow. I have been prodded and poked and scanned.

We have been going out to some low key playgrounds in this tremendously non-snowy winter, ridden bikes, gone on hikes, and done a lot of crafty stuff. I will be collating all those in the next couple of days, so that I can keep track of our adventures and milestones.

The Rebuilding Rounds project is coming along very well, but you can read the newsletter for that in the previous post and at http://www.RebuildingRounds.org 🙂 and for mysterious reasons, not many people have hired me to do their marketing at http://www.GuidingLightMarketing.com, though everyone and their dog has wanted a website. And I still beat the overseas budget outsourcing in price if you know someone who would like a nice website made by someone local (http://www.GuidingLightWebsites.com)