Playground and playground equipment may not seem like much but to parent and children is can be the start of a social life and community support system and the best news is it is fun!
For the past few years I have been involved supporting a single Mum, we meet socially or I watch her preschool child to allow her some time to herself during the day. This is an enjoyable activity as well as a vital provision for the young woman.
The only time it was fraught was during school holidays when the two older school age children were about. Do not get me wrong they are lovely children, but being cooped up in a rather small flat does not bring out the good side in anyone. At the end of such visits I would generally leave with a splitting headache and would marvel at how my friend could withstand this day in and day out.
I did ask why the children were not outside playing, but they have no garden space and the road outside is too busy with traffic. There is a local park nearby; the children would not even have to cross a road. So why could they not play there?
The reasons were manifold from the number of older children hanging about causing general mischief, dogs being allowed to run free or indeed being exercised there and the “presents” that were left behind to it being seen as an area where there was aggro, trouble and bullying as a result of boredom. So the result was the children stayed inside this is a shame as many children in the UK benefit socially from having access to parks and playground equipment.
Last week the schools were on holiday and my visit was due, I made sure that I had painkillers for my return. Imagine my surprise when I arrived, no older children! I was informed that there was now a new play park which had been instigated by the local Community Council and that is where they were. It was a warm day, so we decided to go along and see how they were doing and also to allow the toddler to play outside as well.
The council have done the area credit. The playground is fenced in with attractive coloured plastic fencing and there is something for every age. There is a separate section for toddlers, which has safety covering as an added protection. Around this area there is seating for parents and I was thrilled to hear that my friend had been coming here and meeting up with other young Mums, this is just what she needs as she is very isolated.
There are so many challenging activities for the young people, much better than just the swings and slides of my generation! A particular favourite was the combination climbing frame with its bridges and degrees of difficulty for getting on and off. By the sound of things everyone was having a great time, much better than slopping about inside watching TV or just generally getting into trouble.
The exciting news for the local community is that they are now hoping to establish a skate park for older children. What a huge benefit this would be for the area, where there are problems in the evening as a result of teenagers being at a loose end.
So I went home without a headache and my friend may not need my support much longer as she builds up her own support network with other young mums. And all because of a fantastic initiative where the young people have great equipment to utilise in a safe space.