Sticking your tongue to a piece of metal playground equipment in the middle of January is basically a rite of passage if you live in a cold climate. Forget about whether your tastebuds would ever heal or if you’d live to forget the panic of not knowing if you’d be stuck to the swing set for the rest of your life. That didn’t matter so long as you built up your playground reputation. Hopefully a parent was close enough to come rushing your way with a warm glass of water to melt away your childhood shenanigans. I wonder what the equivalent foolishness is for children who live in Florida?
When we think of playgrounds – especially in Canada – it feels like we only think seasonally. April to November is outdoor playground time. December to March brings early darkness, freezing temperatures, plummeting Vitamin D levels. It feels like we forget that playgrounds can still be an option. A cold option, but still, an option. Making the effort to continue outdoor play into the winter months can be an exceptionally simple way to help keep seasonal depression at bay.
Outdoor winter festivals like the Carnaval de Quebec are popular across Canada for their ice sculptures, maple syrup and mascots like Bon Homme de Neige. It’s a great opportunity to get bundled up and go play outside in the crisp, winter air. Rosy cheeks, and numb fingers usually indicated it was a great day. Then, you get to go home to some warm hot chocolate, and cozy blankets.
Imagine if we could winterize our parks and playgrounds to keep that playful spirit accessible throughout our winter seasons? Lighting sensors to keep the playgrounds lit beyond 4:00pm. A warming station could extend winter play by hours, and help mittens stay dry. A playground with rope courses offers a low-maintenance winter activity. You need a lot of snow before a rope net gets buried! Even without those winter luxuries, why not use a playground all year round? Snowball races down the slides, leaping from the swings into a big pile of snow, building up a snow fort underneath a play structure. Such fun ways to balance out that cooped up feeling after being stuck inside when it’s too miserable out to play.
A playground becomes a whole new place to explore in the winter. The dynamics of playing while in a snowsuit and thick gloves can create a new opportunity to work on balance and climbing skills. Zooming down a snow-covered slide adds an extra zing of excitement that doesn’t show up in July. You get to slide across icy patches to see how far you can go. You get to roll down the hill to see who gets to the bottom the fastest. Winter and playgrounds are a great mix!