Playground Safety Checklist (By Guest Blogger, Ken Allen)

Most parents will tell you that raising kids is very different today than it was when they were growing up. In many ways, that’s true. Consider how kids spend their free time:

Children today have so much of their time outside of school occupied by structured activities that parents need a separate datebook just to keep up with their kids’ daily schedules.

Even though a lot of aspects about raising kids have changed, a lot of parts are just as parents remember them. One of those aspects is the importance of the playground. Even with competition from video games and streaming video, the playground remains one place kids are sure to congregate.

That’s a good thing, too, because playgrounds offer children the opportunity to get some much-needed exercise as well as kick-start other areas of their intellectual and social development.

Although playgrounds remain as popular with kids today as they did in generations past, playgrounds themselves have changed somewhat over the years, particularly when it comes to safety. Whereas playgrounds of the past featured concrete or asphalt underneath many of them, today’s versions are far more likely to feature soft wood chips or recycled rubber to cushion falls. Metal slides have given way to plastic ones that don’t heat up to dangerous levels under the sun. Swing sets often include special swings that will safely hold toddlers without allowing them to slip off the seat. However, just because playgrounds have become safer over the years doesn’t mean parents don’t have to worry about playground safety at all.

Teaching kids how to use playgrounds safely and inspecting equipment to look for potential hazards are responsibilities parents should take seriously, even as playgrounds become safer, in general. In doing so, parents can help ensure that their kids gain the full benefit of everything playgrounds offer them. Consult the following checklist the next time you take your kids to the playground, and you can make sure they’ll have a fun day with their friends, just the way you did when you were a kid.

“Playground Safety Checklist courtesy of Merrillville Personal Injury Lawyer Keneth J. Allen Law Group”

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Dear Holly: You’re an Outdoorsy Kind of Girl

11 months.

Dear Holly,

Something I enjoy doing is taking cute pictures of you, then putting subtle captions on them, as I attempt to imagine what you would be saying if you could talk yet.

This past weekend we spent the entire afternoon at the playground at Westhaven with Hanna’s family. Her daddy, Mohamad, took pictures of the two of you the entire time.

One of my favorites is where you are sitting in the bucket swing, with your sun hat and your pacifier. The caption I wrote was this: “I like to come here sometimes just to collect my thoughts.”

It’s funny because it somehow seems real; like that’s really what you’re thinking about, though your just a little baby girl.

Mohamad was able to get several shots of you and Hanna just hanging out. At the time, your brother and I were playing at the creek, so I don’t know for sure what was going on, but I imagine the two of you having fun just staring out into the distance; neither of you knowing what you were looking at, but just knowing you were having fun.

You loved every minute of our time out at the park. Not only did you get to spend time with your friend Hannah, who you’ve known your whole life, but you got to spend a whole afternoon outside, on a wonderful sunny day.

It’s true- you an outdoorsy kind of girl. You love feeling the breeze through your hair. You love hearing and watching the birds fly across the sky.

This makes me happy because I definitely consider myself an outdoorsy kind of guy, as I know your brother is too.

So I have a feeling we have a long future of hiking, canoeing, and just exploring the great outdoors. We’re going to have a lot of fun in life.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw.

Dear Jack: You Have Really Cool Parents

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Looking at the pictures from on our visit last Saturday to Westhaven with our friends Mohamed, Lena, and Hanna, one thing becomes undeniable: You have really cool parents.

Mohamed and I, both being the token “take hundreds of pictures of your kid at every outing” kind of dads, ended up getting some good shots of all the kids.

I like the picture he took of you and me playing on the slide, where you are hiding below, in attempt to scare me as I go down the slide. The look on your face seems to indicate, “Yeah, I know my dad’s crazy… but I’m used to it by now.”

In addition to me purposely pushing you too high on the swing, to test your limits, you purposed we engage in a good classic game of Tag. I thought it was funny how you started by proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m it first.” But then you didn’t start chasing me…

So I turned the tables on you and started chasing you instead, and you ran from me… even though it was supposed to be the other way around.

Once you finally embraced what being it meant, I found a way to challenge you as you chased me. We were standing next to this swinging balance beam.

As you ran towards me and got close, I simply jumped over the balance beam. Then as you ran around it, I jumped back to the other side.

Speaking of the balance beam, Mommy was really good at crossing it without falling off.

You were so happy when I found a little plastic alligator in the playground mulch. We took it down to the creek, where you used a boat made out of leafs, so he could “sail down the river.”

Yep, you have really cool parents. No playing on our smart phones from the bench. We’re out there having fun with you any chance we get.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw & Nick Shell.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

Dear Jack,

After leaving Saturday morning at 5:30 AM from our home in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and having a few adventures in between, we finally made it to Fort Payne, Alabama, about 13 hours later; where Nonna and Papa live.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d3

The next afternoon, we loaded up for our final stop on our 1st father and son road trip. Nonna and Papa joined us in the Lexus ES; while Uncle Andrew and your cousin Calla followed us in their Toyota Highlander.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

On route to the hiking spot, I made a quick detour to show you the little brick house I grew up in, until I was a high school freshman in 1995 when the “new house” (which serves as your summer camp headquarters for the week) was built.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d13 d14 d15 d16

Just a few miles away was the DeSoto State Park, where we began our journey down the Azalea Cascade Trail.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

I chose for you to go on this trail as a way to keep you from having to take a nap: In the afternoons, you get way too much energy if you don’t sleep; so I catered to your needs by providing an agenda and landscape for you:

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

It was a long, strenuous trail for the likes of a 5 and a half year-old boy. I was very pleased with the results.

You encountered a wall of a hill…

d12 Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

A treacherous bridge…

d23

And a giant rock or two for us to climb together.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d27

Perhaps one of your favorite parts of the trail was when you amazingly found a baby slug that you took along for a leg of the hike.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d26

About 15 minutes later, you declared, “Daddy, it’s time for me to part ways with Sluggy.”

And so you did.

I helped you find a nice place in the grass for him to hang out.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d21 d22 d24

Hiking that trail with you showed me what you’re capable of for next time!

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d6 d7

I figured it would be a good idea for you and your cousin to cool down by playing at the playground across from where we parked the Lexus ES.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d30 d31

It just so happens, the playground equipment company Papa has worked for since 1979 made and installed the equipment the two of you played on.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d33

From there, we got cleaned up and got ready for your goodbye dinner at the Thai restaurant…

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

Dear Jack: Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

4 years, 4 months.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Dear Jack,

Our Easter tradition every year since you have been born has been to take you to the big egg hunt that Nonna and Papa’s church has at someone’s (very large) house.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

I gave you several coaching sessions before the hunt; sharing with you the effective strategy of immediately running to the far corner of the field, where no one else bothers to go. I also reminded you not to stop to open the eggs; just to throw as many as you could into your basket, then worry about opening them after the hunt is over.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Without surprise, you easily obtained more eggs than the other kids by doing so. While you are still not quite inspired to kick the soccer ball during your games, egg hunting is a sport you can get excited about!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

What’s funny is that you’ve yet to really look through the eggs, even now. You were happiest about bringing home some of my old stuffed animals from when I was your age; not what was inside the eggs.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Later on, we all went to Hawkins Spring Park there in Fort Payne, Alabama; my hometown. Where I grew up, there were several parks around our house, yet I never really went to this one.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Had I known about it back when I was 4, this might have been my favorite park; especially since a giant creek runs through it.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Of course, I didn’t let you and your cousin Calla have all the fun on the playground. They happened to have an adult playground where grown men like me and your Uncle Andrew could test our agility and strength. We were victorious… mostly.

p6

Oh, and we rescued an old abandoned tire from the creek. We helped the environment!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

A common question I have been getting this week is, “Did you have a good Easter?”

I did. We all did. We have nothing but good, fun, quality time as a family… while visiting family.

Love,

Daddy

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

I Thought We Were At The Playground To Actually Play…

October 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm , by 

Dear Jack,

Saturday morning after we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the 23rd time, I’ll mention more about that later, Mommy and I decided it was time for you, I mean, our family, to burn off some extra energy at Granny White Park- or as you call it, “The Dinosaur Park.”

(It has like three different plastic dinosaurs you can climb on.)

I thought we were going to the playground to actually play, but once we got there, all your jittery energy strangely transformed you into a sluggish state of wonder.

You decided you wanted to “people watch” instead.

And I have to admit- there was a lot to see. Nearby, there was a birthday party going on in which all the little boys were dressed up in superhero costumes.

“Daddy, there’s two Spidermans?” you asked.

You didn’t want to go down the slide, or crawl through the tunnel, or even try out the cool pirate ship teeter-totter.

However, you were willing to let Mommy and me push you on the swing, which is the most passive activity to do at the park; other than sitting on the plastic dinosaurs and watching the other kids have fun.

Seriously, you looked so sad.

I get it that you may have just been a little bit intimidated by all the other kids you didn’t know.

Or maybe that, like me sometimes, you just felt like being philosophical and introspective.

But after about 12 minutes of you being the swing, I myself was getting antsy.

So with the superheros now playing behind you where you couldn’t see them anymore, I suggested we move around a bit- in the form of a family walk.

Didn’t work.

After about five steps, you said it:

“Mommy! Hold me!”

You clearly weren’t too tired to walk. The whole point in us being there was for you to burn off all the extra energy you had back at the house.

So I grabbed you and ran far into the vacant soccer field, therefore forcing you to have to run; either because I was chasing you or you were chasing me.

It worked.

For about a minute.

Then you made your way to Mommy again and it was back to sitting in the swing. And sitting on the dinosaurs.

Oh well, I tried.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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People Watching At The Neighborhood Playground

November 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm , by 

23 months.

I am a self-proclaimed “people watcher.” To be honest, I’m never not people watching.

It’s like every person is a character and every conversation is a plot line. Basically, life is a non-stop sitcom.

This afternoon while at the neighborhood playground with my son, a young playmate approached a fellow parent nearby:

“Hi, my name is [let’s just call him Michael] and I am 4 years old.”

The kid sounded like he was trying out for a Welch’s grape juice commercial in 1995.

A few minutes later, the kid introduces himself to me too. I smiled and said, “Nice to meet you.” Then I turned away to help my own son down the slide.

“Two more minutes and then we’re going home,” I heard the boy’s mother say to him.

Exactly two minutes later, she followed up on her promise: “Okay, time to go now. I told you two minutes ago.”

He pretended not to hear her, so she pretended to leave the playground without him.

And his response?

“NO! No, no, no! NO! I DO NOT like you anymore, Mommy!”

So the irony in this people watching scene was that the little boy who appeared to be a well-mannered child ended up morphing minutes later into “that kid.”

But hey, who’s not to say that my son seemed weird to other parents there at the playground?

After all, he was the kid who illegally went down the slide backwards, about 27 times in a row. (I was so proud of that little goober!)

Not to mention, what about me? I’m the dad who stands at the top of the slide to assist my son once he climbs up there, making sure he doesn’t fall off the 6 foot drop.

Perhaps to other people watchers, being my son’s personal stunt coach seems odd in what is considered normal and appropriate for parents at the playground.

That’s why it’s fun to people watch. You get to see a lot of interesting people do a lot of curious things. Likewise, you get to entertain others who think you are an interesting person doing curious things.

On second thought, maybe that’s not a good thing.