Even before I became a mother, I loved visiting parks and playgrounds anywhere I traveled. I'm partial to a good splash pad or water table. Something about the sound of running water and the cool surprise as it hits your skin - it just ticks off every sensory box for me. In fact, I even wrote and performed a poem once (in competitive speech) called, "I Love The Fountain" because um...I do? And I'm totally a kid at heart, so no matter how old I am, you'll find me barefoot dipping my toes in any fountain I can.
Playgrounds can be quite miserable - rundown, broken equipment, littered with trash. Or, they can be literal works of art (like the Hakone Open Air Museum's "Woods Of Net" structure). A well-designed playground can nourish the imagination, replenish the soul, and exhaust the hyperactive toddler in your family. I'm happy to say that playgrounds haven't lost their charm for me. With my tiny Shep in tow, I'm always on the hunt for the next cool spot to work out his wiggles. With our move to Iowa, I've left behind the smaller city block playgrounds and moved into the land of all things natural. To that end, the playground we visited today inspired me to explore the coolest playgrounds in the world. Lucky me, I've already been to one (or two) of them!
City Museum in St. Louis, MO
If you haven't been to this museum, you haven't lived!!! I have been blessed to go twice, and I hope to go more than a few more times in my life. Forget the Arch, the City Museum is the must-see destination for kiddos in St. Louis. Trust me on this - it's parent-friendly as all get-out! There's even an adult-sized ballpit complete with a catwalk so you can bean people from overhead while they're helplessly waist-deep in a pit of volleyball-sized rubber balls. Did I mention it's outdoors? Right next to the Beer Garden and Fire Pit.
YES. You read all that correctly. This place is smack bad in the middle of downtown St. Louis and takes up TEN WHOLE STORIES of awesomeness. The City Museum is indescribable - but I'll try my best. It's like a maze of hamster tubes and wheels inside the skeleton of a building. Some places to climb are open air tubes, others are steps that climb into the ceiling, leading to a pipe where you wriggle on your belly above a sea of twinkling lights. There's a skate park, the world's largest tie collection, a really cool vintage store, and a ferris wheel on the rooftop. If that isn't enough to entice you, I don't know what is.
This German playground is the stuff of kid dreams. The playground is really a series of ever-changing structures built by kids themselves. Kids can throw pottery, forge metal, garden, or build entire structures. The park is full of wood, saws, nails, and hammers. It's basically a huge outdoor workshop for your imagination. I love it because I tend to lean a bit more hands-off with my parenting style when my kids are playing. Yes, I'll be observant and mindful of them and their behavior. But at the end of the day, I don't want them to hold themselves back for my sake. Go! Run! Cut a board and nail it to another board and make a window or something! Just as long as I can sit down and drink my coffee.
Wickiup Wandering Woods
Ok, I'll fess up. This is the playground that we visited today. It deserves a spot on this list - not because it's the biggest of its kind, or even the best version or the genre, but because I will always have a soft spot for family afternoons. Wickiup is an outdoor natural playground. Kids can play in the park in any way they choose - it's quite friendly to imaginative freeplay. Park officials have hung feathers on structures that kids can't climb on, but otherwise? It's all fair game. Sandpits, balance beams, and even a zip line complete the park. My favorite parts are the many structures made from woven branches - little huts and arches that fit in perfectly with the forest setting. It feels like a magical oasis in the middle of a wetlands...probably because that's exactly what it is!
Have you visited any of these parks? Or maybe you've found one yourself that's really cool! Tell me which ones I need to add to my bucket list on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3.