I took my 10-month old daughter to our local play-park for the first time recently to celebrate the fact that she is now a walking baby. The emotional part of this trip comes from the fact that we moved to this neighborhood the WEEK we find out we were having a baby and this park represented the future: one day, if things go as planned, our baby was going to be playing in this park with these other kids. It was a moment that instantly justified a series of decisions and choices we’d made over the last 18 months. But me being the cerebral, techy, interested-in-everything dad that I am, I couldn’t help but notice the modern playground technology this play-park was sporting. It was amazing.
The section of the park for under-2 kids has little climb-in toy installations that are perfect for the newly walking and way more advanced than the rusty iron deathtraps I remember from my childhood. A mini-table with video game controller-like buttons and levers on it decked out in bright colors was my daughter’s favorite as she’s always trying to snag the Xbox 360 controller out of my hands when we’re at home. I’m thinking the levers and buttons have to better for her development than some oversized see-saw or steel hobby horse that had me and my cousins knocking ourselves silly when we were little.
Of all the new tech in this so-called “tot lot” it was the spongy rubber turf under all of the toddler toy installations that caught my eye. Just stepping on this stuff you could feel yourself sinking a couple of inches, perfect for a 20lb kid who still likes to faceplant every now and then. Covered in sand, however, this spongy turf looks solid, like something that’ll hurt just as much as concrete. And so even as we spent time in the toddler area, both of us firmly planted on the spongy turf, my daughter still caused me lurching and reacting to catch her every time she went to fall on her behind. If falling on hard tile on our kitchen and bathroom floor at home doesn’t hurt her, this bouncy rubber was probably like a trampoline to her. I played high school basketball on a similar, tougher indoor surface that still hurt when we slid and flopped on it and this was back in the 80s. I simply hadn’t expected playground/athletic surface technology to be so advanced as to have such safe, sanitary and specialized options like this.
So as my little girl continues to learn to walk, her dad will continue to learn how to fit her into her world, not his.