O CANADA! Are you as excited as I am to be celebrating our country's 150th birthday? We are lucky to live in this amazing place and I've teamed up with some of my favourite ECM Media bloggers to share the love of our home and native land. After you read my post, there's a linky at the bottom full of wonderful activities, stories and unique ways to celebrate Canada Day.
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During my childhood our neighbourhood playgrounds were pretty basic. There was usually a metal swing set with a couple belt swings, a stand alone slide that went straight down, a teeter totter that would always hurt your butt when you landed on the ground, a set of monkey bars and, if you were lucky, one of those merry go rounds that someone was sure to puke on or go flying off of each year. It was glorious in our memories, but, perhaps, a bit uninspired.
Fast forward a few decades and our Canadian playgrounds have come a long way, baby.
There are some truly elaborate designs and creative ideas that playground developers come up with now. There are themed playground (such as fire truck ones near fire stations or the submarine one on the Halifax waterfront), accessible playgrounds designed to include people with special needs in play, and natural playgrounds (such as the Dingle and Fort Needham) inspired by and made with elements found in nature such as tree logs and stumps, dirt and water features, and rolling hills.
The type of equipment has changed over the years as well and it's started to become rare to see a standard swing set at a newly installed playground these days. Many have opted for alternatives to single use swings that are accessible for more kids and varying ability levels such as platform swings; combo baby/adult swings, and spinners that kids can operate themselves. There's something for everyone, no matter how old you are (or whether you have kids or not)!
But the main reason you need to incorporate playgrounds into your Canadian road trip is because so many of these playgrounds have taken cues from their home communities and incorporated the local values and history of the area into the design.
In Sydney, Cape Breton there is the Open Hearth Park built on the old tar ponds with artwork throughout the park that shares the community's history and the story of the Sydney Steel Plant.
In St. Stephen, New Brunswick (at the Canada/US border), there is the Chocolate Park Playground and, while there is no actual chocolate in the park, the town is the home of Ganong Bros. Ltd., has a Chocolate Museum, an annual Chocolate Fest, and it's known as Canada's Chocolate Town.
Prince Edward Island has a castle playground fit for its royal namesake, and, further afield, a playground in the Yukon has nods to First Nations creation stories and history, another in Ottawa was created for the 150th birthday (see quote below), one in Toronto near the Art Gallery of Ontario is inspired by an artist's studio, and a Victoria, B.C. playground has a giant octopus, salmon, and even a sea serpent, inspired by local lore, to play on!
We've started planning our family road trips around playground stops as we all love checking out new places to play and learning about the inspiration behind the park. We've even been known to drive out of our way for a really cool playground that we all wanted to test out, like this sweet natural playground that the people in Bridgetown, NS built.
There's even a helpful free app available that's great to have on your travels called Playground Buddy where users add the playgrounds they go to so you can pull it out when you need a driving break on a road trip and find the nearest spot to burn off some pent up energy.
If you're an adult without kids, you still need to get on this. You won't believe how much playgrounds have changed and I guarantee you won't be able to resist the inner child in you begging to zip down that twisty slide or challenge your road trip buddies to a swing across the monkey bars. You can also find loads of fitness workouts online designed around a playground so you can get your sweat on while you play: chin-ups on the monkey bars, push ups on the benches, scissor abs on the swings.
Playgrounds have so many benefits to them. I wrote a piece about this that you can read here. Besides the obvious benefits that they are free and that they get kids active and outside, they also teach kids about turn taking, develop their fine and gross motor skills, and encourage them to push themselves further and higher each time they take on a playground. These skills build confidence and a realistic understanding of their ability level that they can call on when determining future risky play choices.
There are so many amazingly fun playgrounds across our country that you just NEED to check out, and, luckily, the work has already been done compiling the 150 coolest playgrounds from coast to coast! You just need to plug them into your GPS and hit the road!
Here is THE list of Canada's 150 Coolest Playgrounds compiled by a group I'm part of called the Playground Writers of Canada. There is a listing of featured playgrounds at the start, and you can also download the whole list of the 150 coolest playgrounds across the country at the end of the post.
You guys, we're lucky to have some awesome playgrounds right here in Greater Halifax and across Nova Scotia, for sure, but seeing some of these other ones has me thinking a playground focused road trip is in order to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Who's in? (kids are totally optional, especially if you promise you won't ask me to push you on the swings)
You can see the whole list of playgrounds by clicking the image below, and you can see my collection of playground profiles (which are constantly being added to) of local playgrounds in the Halifax region by clicking here.
Now carry on waving that Canadian flag and start clicking your way through these posts below and you'll be oozing red and white by the time you're done!