Monday, June 27, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #8: Pier 6 Playground

The eighth stop on our playground tour is the newest, largest and possibly the most popular (or at least hyped) playground in Brooklyn. The playground at pier 6 opened up last year after much anticipation and has consistently attracted more and more families as word has spread and development of the area has increased.

The pier 6 playground might be better described as the playgrounds of pier 6, as there are really 4 separate play areas. In addition to the play areas, there is a long pathway with a plethora of benches between north and south sides of the playground that connects the end of Atlantic Ave to the pier/water. Their pier itself has just been further renovated in the past couple months and there is now access all the way to the end of the pier. Brightly colored tables and chairs have also popped up in this area now, right next to the restrooms - which are the nicest/cleanest playground bathrooms I have even encountered (they even have soft toilet paper!).

The 4 sections of the playground consist of a swing area that takes up the entire south side of the playground, a slide and climbing area, a massive sandbox and a water play area.

In the swing area you can choose from traditional baby swings, seated "big kid" swings which are paired off in individual alcoves or the bungee-link swings that let kids hang on to a rubber rope and fly through the air like Tarzan. There are also plenty grassy areas in this section, which can be nice to lounge or picnic on.

The slide area consists of three giant slides... two tall open ones that run between bamboo thickets and another enclosed one, accessible by climbing up a tepee-like structure. Also in this area are two of the new modern climbing globes (does anyone know the proper name for these?) and a giant sand pit that all of the equipment is situated atop.

Behind the slide area - accessible via a pathway on the left or a large set of steps/benches on the right - is the massive sand box. There are platforms to hang out on, houses to play in, a train to "ride" on, rocks to climb on and water to play with (when it's warm enough).

And finally there's the amazing water area. Located behind the sandbox in the rear of the playground, the water area has streams, sprinklers and lots of cool gadgets for kids to work with. It's more of a mini water park actually and most of the kids get fairly wet, so it's a good idea to bring a bathing suit/change of clothes.

The trees are starting to grow up a little more now so there is a slight bit of shade in some areas, but for the most part this playground is as sunny as the beach - so come prepared with your floppy hats, sunscreen, etc.

Aside from the sun, the only drawback to this playground is getting there... even if you have a car it is difficult to find parking in the area and the nearest trains (the 2/3, 4/5 or R @ Borough Hall) are a good 15 to 20 minute hike with kids in tow. The closet public transportation ins the B63 bus, which runs down Atlantic and 5th Avenues. If you have the ability to bike, that is certainly going to be the most time efficient means.

I'm giving pier 6 an A, leaving off the + mostly just for the inaccessibility (it's pretty awesome otherwise... and that's without even mentioning the great city views/water views). So if you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, it is definitely worth the trek. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #7: Imagination Playground

The seventh stop on our playground tour is a shady little playground in Prospect Park, not far from the first stop on our tour (Lincoln Playground). The entrance to Imagination playground is just a little further south from Lincoln Road, tucked between the park drive and Ocean Ave.

Imagination playground is just that: a place to inspire imaginary play. You will not find a single slide, ladder or swing here. Instead, you'll find dream-like patterns, cut-outs and play structures that act more like props than anything else. The central structure consists mostly of a large ramp and a twisty "piano bridge" connecting two sides. The structure is not more than a couple of feet off of the ground at the highest point.

In one corner there is a stage-like area, accessible from a few steps in the front or a ramp off to the side. In the opposite corner are upright wooden animal cut-outs where children can pose as various creatures as they poke their heads through the face openings. Nestled in another pocket of the playground is a rock structure with a statue of a child playing with a dog, which is situated in front of a little alcove of benches.

And finally, there is the great dragon fountain. A large bronze structure, water cascades down and around the dragon, which is situated under a supportive beam that the more agile children like to climb atop. This water play area is a great alternative to the typical sprinklers that you find on other playgrounds.

Particularly during the hot summer months, Imagination playground is the perfect place to come cool down in the shade for some water fun and unique creative play. I give it an A.

Our sign this week is friend/freinds :

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #6: Underwood Park Playground

The sixth stop on our playground tour is a great little playground and park in Clinton Hill. Located at Washington and Lafayette, Underwood Park is right across from the Clinton-Washington stop on the G.

I've been by this playground many times and wanted to check it out but never did until this week... and what a nice treat it turned out to be - especially when the temps were nearing 100 degrees and we were in desperate need of an aquatic respite.

Coming in from the Washington Ave entrance, you are first met with a shady park area with plenty of benches and tables. Directly behind this is a huge, fenced in water oasis (okay maybe not quite an oasis compared to pier 6 - we'll cover that soon - but still pretty cool). It's just an enclosed area with 6 or so sprinklers on the perimeter but there is plenty or room to run, dance, splash and play through the summer months.

On the north side of the water area is a really nice little grassy area that seems perfect for playing ball or perhaps having a little picnic. This area is fenced off too so if there aren't many older children there it might be a nice baby hang out as well.

Down the steps on the south side of the park are two large play areas. The smaller one on the right features a structure that includes two tunnels (with holes to pay peek-a-boo in), colorful spinning blocks, two slides and a steering wheel.

On the other side is a large area with two different structures. These feature double slides, curved climbing ladders, a spiral slide, bridges, ramps, an elevated swinging balance beam, monkey bars, tic tac toe, swinging ladders, a fireman's pole and more. There are also benches along most of the perimeter of this area, which are mostly in the shade. The majority of the playground equipment is mostly in the sun though.

Also, in the rear/southwest side of the playground are swings - both baby and big kid size.

I am really glad that we were finally able to visit this playground and although I'm not sure that it's perfect, I can't think of too much that I would change about it... so I think it may just be our first A +.

This warm weather has been bringing out a variety of lovely butterflies, so "butterfly" is our featured sign this week. It's a really fun one for kids to practice because it is such an active an life-like sign... great for all kind of imaginary play about being a butterfly!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #5: Stroud Playground

The fifth stop on our playground tour is Stroud Playground in Prospect Heights on Park Place between Washington Ave and Classon Ave. If you've been down this block before, it's quite possible that you didn't even notice this rather run down playground behind a small park.

We first discovered the "Elephant Playground" (as we've now come to call it) on the way to our weekly music classes a block away. Initially I was a bit weary of this old and somewhat abandoned playground, but over the past couple years we have really become quite fond of it for a little something different now and then.

The playground is nestled behind a shady little park with several benches and tables. There is a school yard off to the left and apartment buildings border the rear and right side of the playground. The painted metal parts of the structure are chipping but the structural integrity of the equipment is sound. There are two double slides, a spiral slide, bridges, monkey bars, ladders and two baby swings fenced off in the rear. And then there's the elephant. It's really not that exciting, just an old statue of an elephant that the kids can climb on... but nonetheless, they get to "ride" on an elephant so that's cool enough for them. It's large enough that a 3-year-old sometimes needs a hand to get on and off of it, but can also manage it themselves if they really want to.

The most appealing part of the playground (from an adult perspective at least) is the relative calm and quiet. Compared to other playgrounds that are bustling with rowdy kids, crying babies, exasperated parents and everything else that is quintessentially "playground", Stroud is quite relaxing. We are almost always the only ones on the playground and even on the occasion where there are other children, it is only one or two who are usually relatively mellow. There are occasionally adults in the park area or even on a rear bench of the playground, but they keep to themselves.

If you don't live in the neighborhood and need more motivation to visit an old and somewhat desolate little playground, here are two more incentives: Sit and Wonder and Chavella's (neither of which I have any personal connection to or other reason to plug on here) - some of the best coffee in Brooklyn and tasty, affordable Mexican food. So grab your Stumptown pre playground and relax in the shade while the kids play on the elephant and then mosey over grab a cactus taco for lunch. :)

Although it's a nice change of pace from other playgrounds, Stroud still needs a lot of TLC and isn't exactly something you'd write home about, so I'm giving it a B-.

To compliment these bright, warm days we've been having lately, our sign this week is "Sun".