Free-Range Challenge of the Week: Rate That Park!

Readers — Here’s a cool idea courtesy of a babysitter named Casey up in the Canadian town of Saskatoon.It not only sounds fun, it sounds like a great “Challenge of the Week.” Or at least something you might enjoy trying. Let us know how it goes if you do! — Lenore

The kids I babysit and I are doing a HUGE summer project this year.  We have planned to go to all of the parks in our city, play on them, and rate them on a scale of 1-5.  So far we’ve been to about half of the parks and we’ve already realised a few things. 

First of all the parks that try to be “safe” really aren’t much safer than the more fun but “dangerous” ones.  And second, not everything always has to lead up to the slide!  Some of our favourite parks so far have been the ones that you can play “don’t touch the ground tag” and also the ones that have neat inventive toys and obstacles. 

Anyways, one thing is for sure, regardless of the safety or fun level of the parks, it really is a great thing to get out and find out what your town really does have to offer – we’re having one of the best summers ever!

21 Responses

  1. That does sound like a great idea – I remember how exciting it was as a kid when my parents would take me to a new playground. Even if it was mostly the same equipment, the little novelties always made an impression. Kids really are amused by simple things.

    (Also, not to be one of *those* Canadians, but Saskatoon is a city, not a town – about the same size as Orlando, Florida or Baton Rouge, Louisiana).

  2. I won’t do it this year I think (not enough time left in summer), but every year I PLAN to visit every playground in Central Park.

    Come to think, every year I’ve been wishing for a site to review various NYC playgrounds so, you know, I could know which ones to go to. Decent pictures of the various attractions, nearest transit, *accurate* age ranges – that’d be so useful. Bet other posters here in big cities could use one too. Anybody interested in helping set one up?

  3. How plausible would it be to post these rankings/reviews so they appear on google maps? Just imagine someone searching for local playgrounds/parks and getting so much information as all that!

  4. I would love to participate in a project to map and rate parks. I travel with the kids a lot in the summer and find a stop at a park much better than a gas station or fast food restaurant. We have found some of our favorite parks just wandering a random town.

  5. My favorite park was the one that we always had our family reunion at, but didn’t go to otherwise, as it was in another town. It had one of those sandboxes with the shovel you sit on, but it also had a stream that ran through it, where we would catch crawdads.

    Great fun!

  6. Alright, here’s a Playgrounds map. I thought about making it public, but then thought maybe that could wind up bad, so I made it so that any collaborator can invite anybody, and sent it to Lenore. Anybody else who wants access can contact me through my website.

    What an awesome resource this could be for our road trips!

  7. What a fantastic and fun idea! My own kids like to see just how they can make the “safe” features unsafe. The most obvious being climbing on top of the slide tubes. Not long ago they were actually told by another parent they had to get down. I love that they told the woman, “my mom wants us to do this.” Here in Austin park season isn’t exactly summer time so perhaps we’ll try this in the fall.

    Thanks for the idea.

  8. Lenore, I figured out why your name seemed so familiar – FUNNY TIMES!

  9. I was actually going to do something similar with my youngest last year. We went to 2 of the 3 closest parks by our house and I realized both (and the other one near by that we didn’t go to) are crappy. I was going to bring my camera and document how dangerous, dirty and just bad the parks are. The one I took pictures with my phone. The slide that was meant for 2-4 year olds was 2′ feet off the ground. My dd was 2 1/2 and I had to help her down. She couldn’t get up the steps because the first one was 18″ off the ground. That was all because there were no wood chips any more (there should be like 12″ under neath the structure). 1 of the 2 swings was broken and there were beer bottles littering the park. I took a great shot of the several empty bottles right underneath the sign that said alcohol is forbidden in the park, lol.

    Maybe we’ll do that once school starts although there are only 3 parks within her walk distance and she doesn’t have a stroller any more.

  10. There are too many parks in Chicago to go to all of them, but my goal this year once the weather got nicer was to expand beyond our normal, nearby parks. I think we’ve now been to every one within 2 miles of our house and even a few further away that we had to drive to.

    Not only was this fun (and good exercise!), but we found a new favorite park that we previously did not know exisited. It’s just shy of a mile walk from our house and has lots of space to run and great equipment for a toddler.

  11. It would be nice to have some kind of tagging, like ‘has sandbox’ and ‘has little kid swings’ and ‘has big kid swings’ and ‘has shade’. My son loves the sand, but there’s only one ‘sand’ park around here, and it’s a long walk.

    I also notice some parks are worse than others with respect to dog poop and cigarette butts.

  12. I don’t see a way to use tags on Google maps, but you can put that info in the details.

    I just saw that the last link didn’t come through right, maybe this one will work better:


  13. @Rich Wilson, that’s what we’ve been doing. We started out taking a pen and paper to each playground and while the kids played I wrote down everything I could think of…type of ground material, how much shade, what objects were in the playground…then the kids came and discussed what they like.

    We plan on taking the final project to the City, or the newspaper, and possible hope to make a website including the pictures. It’s been really fun and we’ve also decided to make a different rating for the park and the playgrounds (some parks have more than one playground, or some parks have terrible playgrounds but awesome paths and such).

    We’re having a BLAST – only problem is getting in and out of the car so many times seeing as there are at least 175 parks in our city we need to rate. That’s only a problem because we’re bringing my 7 month old daugher with us…it’s still super fun though!

    Glad everyone likes the idea, and we hope you all have as much fun as us this summer!

  14. Great idea! However, I’d hesitate to include the park in our neighborhood. It still has a bunch of old metal equipment, like a carousel and teeter totters. I’m afraid if it were publicized, some killjoy would try to take them out.

  15. kaboom has a playground location project that’s ongoing … I’d suggest that FRK readers add to (and take advantage of) their database.

  16. I did this four years ago, when my kids were roughly 2 and 4 years old. We were mostly looking for shady parks, so we visited each park in our city several times at different times of the day. Parks & Rec puts out a nice guide with all the parks listed–there were way more than I imagined–but shade is not one of the qualities it tracks and we really like our shade. (OK, I really like the shade because I am not built for the hot summers here.) Anyway, some of our favorites are parks that most people don’t seem to know about even though they come with passable bathrooms, nearby nature areas, multiple playgrounds and fields, and shade.

    So go ahead and take a tour of the parks in your area. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

  17. p.s. If you know of any parks along I-70 between Indianapolis, IN and Columbus, OH, please put them on the Kaboom map. We really need some fun places to stop! Thanks!

  18. I’d love to do something like that, but not this year. Once my kids discovered that one of the parks has climbable trees, that was the only one they wanted to go to. Just hope some nutso neighbor doesn’t call the cops on them!

  19. You can also add these types of ratings (and pictures!) to There’s an ‘Active Life’ section with ‘Parks’ as a subsection, but you can also just search for “parks” in the city you’re interested in.

    Now I need to go add my reviews!

  20. I didn’t know that, Mimi – thanks. And Lisa and whoever all else 🙂

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