Why a Backyard Play Structure is NOT on Our Wishlist this Spring

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We love life in the coastal South! Charleston was never on my bucket list of places to live, but my family enjoys our local adventures! My kids and I live outdoors, no matter the weather, from October to May. (Once it gets hot, the only time we spend outdoors is at the pool or beach. I was born in the Midwest, after all.)

We play outside. Eat outside. We even occasionally nap outside.

But you won’t find a play structure in our backyard. For one thing, our current yard isn’t big enough or flat enough to host a beautiful play place. But even if we move to a home with a “better” backyard, I don’t think we’ll get a backyard play structure. It won’t even be on our wishlist.

Here’s why a backyard play structure is not for us:

Backyard Play Structures are stagnant.

Once you put up a play structure, there’s not much change. Sure, you can add a hanging jump rope here and stick there, but what was bought is essential what the children have to play with. Play structures aren’t open-ended like a bunch of loose objects would be. Take some boards, rocks, branches, an old blanket, and a kid’s creativity and determination, now you have endless possibilities for play. We like variety!

Why a Backyard Play Structure is Not on Our Wishlist this Spring Charleston MomsBackyard Play Structures are expensive!

Have you ever looked at how much chunk change you have to dish out for a play structure? The sky seems to be the limit. Sure, the more expensive they are, the fancier they are. But as for me, I would instead use that money to travel and show my kids a new culture. I want to make special memories. That much money should be memorable! And let’s just admit it, play structures aren’t great for resale. If the new house owners have kids, they’ll be thrilled. But if they don’t, someone has to move the play structure. Nobody wants that job.

Backyard Play Structures don’t foster community.

There are seven public playgrounds within three miles of our house. There are six playgrounds that we regularly go to in the surrounding area. Plus, we can easily walk to our neighborhood playground.

The neighborhood playground is where my children meet other neighborhood kids. Friendships are formed. Sometimes the playmates are younger than my children, and my children have to learn to go slower, be gentler. Sometimes they are older, and my children learn that they won’t always be included. It’s life lessons. Sure, we could invite children to our backyard to play on our super, remarkable backyard play structure, but if we go to the neighborhood playground, the children are already there, waiting to play with a friend.

Now if you already have a play structure in your backyard, I hope I’m wrong.

I hope your kids love it, and I hope you’re getting your money’s worth. (And that you invite us over and tell me all the ways I’m wrong in this post, all while we sip sweet tea and watch our kids happily play on your beautiful play structure.)

But if not . . . 

If you’re thinking about getting a backyard play structure, consider the versatility of a play structure, the cost of buying one, and the potential community impact. Out of the three, it is the last one that is closest to my heart. Just watch the evening news, and you’ll realize how much we need each other. How do we get to know our communities? That starts with us teaching our kids to reach out to others, befriend them, work through differences, and embrace similarities. And the best way to meet neighbors?

Go to the neighborhood playground, of course!

In Light of Current Events . . .

When I first heard schools would be canceled for an extended period of time, one of my first thoughts was Ugh! I wish I had play equipment in my backyard! 

And I wasn’t joking.

It’s amazing how a pandemic can change what you think and how you behave. (Toilet paper, anyone?) But once I sat a moment with that thought, I realized, I still hold to my stance.

While playing on the playground with other kids isn’t quite appropriate during this social distancing era, it won’t last forever.

We shouldn’t physically be near each other, but we still NEED one another. We NEED community. We NEED the kindness that interaction, even from a distance, can produce.

My son was missing his friends the other day, asking for a play date.

“Sure,” I said. And the next day we got on a video chat with two of his buddies and their little siblings. All the friends ran back and forth from their computer screens, putting on costumes, sharing about their at-home adventures, laughing and enjoying one another.

As we hunker down, wondering what tomorrow will bring, how can we be kind to our community? How can we reach out to friends of all ages? This is what I wonder as my children and I fill our days during this unprecedented time.

Have an idea to share? Drop it in the comments below.

And to bookmark for a later date: Not sure what playgrounds are in your area? Check out CM’s guide to The Best Playgrounds Around Charleston.