Canberra mum Lauren Dubois took her son to the park last week. It was 10am and already 32 degrees.
“I was just roasting in the sun and he couldn’t go on the slide because it was too hot,” Dubois remembers. “And the park we were at was brand new. It had only been open a few weeks. It’s clear that a lot of money had been spent on this park, and they just missed a few things.”
That night, Dubois sat down and wrote a tongue-in-cheek, slightly sweary rant on her Facebook page The Thud, airing all her frustrations with playgrounds. She talked about how parents’ needs should be considered when it comes to playground design.
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“What about the poor b**tards schlepping these chilluns to the park? What do we get?” she asks. “A couple of metal torture racks (benches) that are only ever sizzling or frozen. There’s no in between. Either way, you’re going to be injured sitting down.”
Dubois set out her basic requirements for parks:
- Ergonomic seating “in a material that won’t leave second-degree burns on your thighs”.
- “I don’t enjoy feeling like a lamb shank in a slow cooker while I watch my kids eat chip bark.”
- A f***ing fence. “It’s impossible to sit and relax when you’ve got to stop a hit and run every four minutes because this fun place designed to make kids want to run around is sitting riiiight next to the main road.”
- “We need food and drinks within 50m of where we’re sitting.”
- No sand or bark chip. “Grass or soft fall. That’s it.”
To Dubois’ surprise, she found that a lot of parents had the same frustrations as her when it came to playgrounds. Her post has already been shared more than 1000 times.
Personally, I’ve certainly felt a lot of these frustrations. I’ve spent countless hours at playgrounds writing angry letters to councils in my head (and then forgetting to put my thoughts down on paper when I get home).
The fence thing has always been a big one for me. Why are there so many playgrounds alongside roads – and rivers – with no fences? I used to find it incredibly stressful when I had two tiny bolters. I’ve heard people warble that children shouldn’t be fenced in when they’re playing. Oh yes they should be, for the sake of us parents. Oh yes.
The lack of shade in Australian playgrounds has always bugged me too. What’s the point of building these amazing structures – including very tempting long metal slippery dips – if you can’t use them for most of the day during the summer? Crazy.
I don’t mind sand in playgrounds, because my kids love playing in it, and I’m willing to put up with a car that constantly needs vacuuming. As for coffee, it’s a luxury, but one I’d really appreciate. Same with ergonomic seating.
But fences, shade and toilets. Surely we can all agree on that?
“If everybody feels this way, why isn’t it a thing?” Dubois asks. “If every parents feels, yes, they really want a park with a fence, and yes, they want better shade, and yes, they would love to have toilets, then why aren’t park designers or councils listening to that? It doesn’t seem like they’re asking people those sorts of questions.”
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