By Heather Skolnick
What is the one place where everyone has fun (besides Disney)? The playground! What could be better than good, old fashioned fun outside?
Playgrounds offer an opportunity for children to be children. Playgrounds are one of the few places left where batteries are not needed, and there is nary an IPad, IPhone, or Playstation in sight. Kids can run around to their hearts’ content and can use their imaginations galore.
Playgrounds offer more than a place to just play. For moms and caretakers, they are a place to meet others.
New Chappaqua resident Nikki Cosentino has been using playgrounds as one way to meet other moms within the community. She comes with her two daughters and lets them play in an enclosed environment while she socializes. Nikki says, “We have moved twice since I had my first daughter, and I always head to the local playground right away to connect with other moms. The park was our first stop here after move-in day in April. Sure enough, I was able to chat with a local mom and get some inside tips on our new town while our kids played together.” Nannies, too, enjoy the social benefits of the playground. When my nanny started, she used the playground as a place to meet people caring for kids in the same age range.
Playgrounds also serve as a place where children can develop and hone social skills. Special Educator Janet Weingarden works with children in many of our local schools. She often uses the playground as a forum for learning. She said, “The way we learn social skills is through practice and watching others. Being in a playground is a particularly effective place to do both of those things.”
She continued, the playground “offers opportunities for sharing, turn taking, collaborating, cooperating and a fantastic opportunity to build empathy. There’s also an opportunity to practice social scripts…as well as problem solving skills.” It’s no wonder Janet often goes there with her students!
From a physical standpoint, the playground offers all kinds of ways to strengthen gross motor and motor planning skills. Play structures are also filled with opportunities to improve some sensory and vestibular sensitivities. Swinging on a tire swing provides vestibular input to help increase the ability to process movement. Jumping is an example of “heavy work” which many teachers and therapists have found to improve attention and calmness for hours afterwards. Physical activity also increases arousal level which can help raise confidence. All in all, the learning opportunities on the playground could rival the classroom!
Now that we know all the benefits of playgrounds, where can we find them within our community? Specifically in New Castle, there are five playgrounds from which to choose. According to the 2010 census, the town has an approximate population of 23,000 people, 23% of whom are under the age of 18. With about 5,300 kids to keep busy, it’s no wonder that the town has a plethora of exciting playgrounds!
Gedney Park is the first playground that comes to mind for most. It includes baseball fields, soccer fields, hiking trails and the pond. Gedney offers two playground areas. The main playground area includes two distinct playground structures (one for the bigger kids, one scaled down for smaller children) with all the standard fixings–twisty slides, bouncy bridges, things to climb, etc. There are also monkey bars, swings and even a clubhouse complete with sandbox area. What else could a child want? Town Recreation Superintendent Bob Snyder said that a new play structure offers tons of fun in a safe, updated format for children.
Still at Gedney, a short walk leads to another, smaller play structure. This area is ideal for families who might have another child playing baseball at the adjacent fields Some children like this mini playground because it’s more subdued, having far fewer children playing at a time. Lastly, Gedney Park also has clean bathroom facilities just off the path from the main playground. This is an important feature for the potty training set.
Discover the “Train Park”
Formally listed as Recreation Field Park on the Town’s website, my kids call it the “Train Park.” If someone doesn’t tell you it’s there, you’d never know. Set back behind Recreation Fields and also adjacent to the train’s rear parking lot, it’s not readily visible from the road. With its proximity to the town Library, it makes for a great combination outing. The playground itself offers lot of unique features sure to entertain the pre-school kids as well as more sophisticated activities like the “zip line” for older kids. This playground is also budgeted for an overhaul soon.
Chappaqua mother of two Dayna Lord recently had a playdate at Recreation Field Park. After her first visit there, she said, “This is one of the most kid-friendly parks around that can easily be combined with a trip into town, the library, diner or ice cream. This is a perfect park for toddlers and those learning to walk, too!” It sounds like she will be back soon!
Another fun option is Smith Park in Mount Kisco. This is a lesser known park as it is really tucked away amid residential streets. It offers a fun play structure with a well mulched ground to protect from any skinned knees. There’s a basketball court for older kids and a large grassy area for a catch or for walking your dog.
Millwood Park is another local option. Set atop the baseball field and adjacent to the tennis courts, the playground offers a standalone twisty slide, a set of swings, and a seesaw. This playground is a convenient option for families trying to entertain children while a softball game is underway.
Lastly, Amsterdam Park in Ossining also has a playground to entertain kids while a sibling is playing soccer. With so many options, there’s always a good reason to get the kids outside.
As the weather warms up, have the kids put down the electronics, and head to the playground!!
Heather Skolnick, her husband and three children live in New Castle. Heather works for a major retailer where she designs systems and processes to support Omnichannel shopping.