Sunday, August 23, 2009

More stuff than a kid can take in: Smith playground

Playground: Smith Kids Playplace
Location: (see website) Fairmount Park, off Kelly Drive (north of the zoo)
Date visited: 8/23/09

Equipment: Several zones, divided by age and type of play:
  • Tot lot (0-5), just reopened after a major renovation, has playhouses, a train, firetruck, large pirate ship to climb and slide down from, rocking horses (et al) on springs, an enclosed (with ropes) merry-go-rounds, low animals that are xylophones, a crawler/toddler playhouse/maze, bucket and strap (and recliner) swings, cup seat spinners, and fiberglass climbing rocks. It's all brand new, made of coated wood or plastic.
  • Several medium age zones (one up front, one in the back) with adventure-style rubber and metal things to climb and spin on (and a larger version of the merry-go-round) as well as various modern teeter-totter equivalents and a rubbery balance beam.
  • A gigantic (easily 50 feet across) suspended mesh of climbing ropes with a platform or trampoline in its center.
  • Zone of swings including bucket and strap styles, but also horizontal tire swings and soft platform swings that could hold several kids or one star-gazer.
material: as described above; scale: huge with several zones
Ages: 0-10 (enforced, or I'd say middle school)
Surface: rubbery composite, very cushy
Shade(0-3): 1 (but lots of new trees)
Water: N
Other: Indoor playhouse for kids up to 5 years old (not visited this time), bathrooms with changing tables (in both), covered large wooden slide with burlap sacks for sliding down (not too huge for toddlers), extensive shaded grassy areas
Access: 10-7 on peak summer weekends; 10-4 most of the spring and fall (see website for specifics); closed Mondays and in the winter

Impressions: This place is to most playgrounds what Disney Land is to a local carnival. There is just So Much More. Our todller ran around in the tot lot with some mix of joy and overwhelmedness at the options. Lots of kids on a hot summer day (all shapes, colors, and sizes) but felt like hardly any. Lots of trees (and backing woods) make it feel like you're far from civilization, although it will be a while before the newer trees get large enough to shade the renovated play areas. Note that there are no trashcans in the playgrounds, so you are expected to "pack out" any snack remnants and other detritus (and actually consume food in restricted areas); also no cellphone use is allowed (to keep your attention on your young charges).
Overall rating: 10


  1. Just an fyi that you are not allowed to have snacks on the playground area (and staff will usually let you know).

  2. This is a great place to play, but should be docked a point because it is incredibly inconvenient to feed kids here. You have to go to a certain floor inside the playhouse or go outside the playground and eat beside the parking lot in a scratchy patch of grass that isn't always cut and doesn't have benches or seating. Not a 10 if you have kids that want a snack at some point, i.e., all kids. lol!