A group of bloggers and I decided to write a series of blog posts/stories loosely based on the titles of the Douglas Adams “Hitchhiker” series.
This is my contribution.
If you were to go back in time, and ask me if I would ever take my children to an indoor play-place, I would have laughed at you. You know, those germ ridden activity centers that all seem to have the same toys that your children don’t play with at home? The huge petrie dishes of germs that make a kindergarten class look like a sterile environment?
I grew up in the country where my brothers and I had over 40 acres of freedom. A big yard with nice green grass that’s only hazard to our well-being was a thistle here and there and maybe a “landmine” left behind by our family dog. If we ever ventured into the big city to visit friends or relatives we were introduced to parks that had swings made of sturdy canvas seats set into motion by thick steel chains. When you reached the top of the steel ladders of the slides you found yourself looking down the shiny metal before you and knew that the climb up would be rewarded shortly by the quick decent down the polished surface in front of you.
What kind of enjoyment could an indoor play place possibly give my children that I had not experienced?
By the time my twins were one I realized the error of my thinking. I found that living in one of the hottest parts of the country had some disadvantages in the middle of summer when it came to outdoor activities. Summer in the Midwest where I grew up lasts about three weeks. Here in Nevada it seems to go on from April to October.
There are many things that make playing outside difficult here in Las Vegas. First of all, the applying and re-applying of several coats of sunscreen slows playtime down to a crawl…and not in a good way. If you want to ask the men and woman who design outdoor playgrounds anything, the first question should be why none of the swing sets are covered. I have yet to find a set of swings that are shielded from the harsh Southwestern sun, and even though the chains holding the plastic injection molded swings are coated in their own type of vulcanized covering, they still get a tad toasty when the mercury dips over 100. Not a nice feeling to the sensitive hands of a toddler.
The slides are also plastic, rather than the polished steel of years gone by, but again rather warm, even at 9 a.m when it’s already 104 degrees and they’ve been baking in the intense rays for a few hours already. It’s a great temperature if you’re looking to fry up s couple eggs for a late breakfast, but not when you’re under 3 feet tall and just want to slide.
The indoor play place has become a twice a month refuge for us for a few reasons.
- The boys get a chance to run out some of the energy they’ve been storing up for the last few days. (And they can store a lot…trust me!)
- I get a chance to talk to some of the other dads in our play group. Conversations range from how to get your kid to try vegetables to what happened to your favorite sports team the week before.
- I have used it as a test run to see what kind of toys they like and are interested in at this stage of the game, rather than buying boxes of playthings and hope they take a liking to them. Both of my boys started loading up the miniature shopping carts they have, each mirroring Dad’s actions in the supermarket. A couple months later my wife and I ordered a pint sized shopping cart of their very own for them to play with at home. The only thing we have to watch out is them mimicking Dad’s “road rage.”
- They get a chance to interact with other kids their own age, and even see how some older children are playing and realize what their next adventure will be. It was fun to sit on the trampoline while other kids bounced, but now they get that it’s much more fun to try and be the “bouncer” rather than the “bouncee.”
I think our choice to visit indoor play-places is a good one. Do I worry about the boys picking up a cold, or a case of German measles when we’re there? Sure, but the first thing we do when we leave is wash hands with disinfectant wipes super good, and we’ve been lucky so far. (Knock on wood.)
Does it cost us more than a free playground would? Of course. It runs anywhere from $8.00 to $12:00 per child, but again, it’s not something we’re doing on a daily basis and I see it as a small price to pay to let them play in the middle of summer here in the heat of a Las Vegas summer.
Plus, I figure we save that much in sunscreen alone.
Do YOU have a favorite Douglas Adams book?