May 05, 2008

Ugly Plastic and Ugly Yards

I admit it. We have several big plastic yard toys, including a climbing structure that used to have a slide, a swing and slide made only for extreme midgets (or two year olds), a teeter-totter shaped like a crocodile and a sand box shaped like a turtle. In fairness we bought exactly zero of these objects. The climbing thing, the "swingset," and the sand box were all given to us by neighbors who didn't have small children anymore and the teeter-totter was brought by my parents who got it at a yard sale.

Still they do clutter up the landscape and they do nothing to improve the looks of the backyard and so I read this article in Slate with a bit of a sigh. My children do play on these toys all the time, using them as houses, hideouts, circuses, ships and other similar things. But as someone who likes to garden and longs for a pretty yard both front and back, I do sometimes wish I didn't have to look at bright colored, ugly plastic things.

Truly, my children who are tall enough also climb the trees in the backyard almost as much as the climbing thing and the sand pile outside the sandbox is used more than the sandbox itself. These two plastic objet d'art are probably going to be the first to be moved on to other locales.

Although I can see that my children would probably be perfectly happy with no big toys in the yard, sometimes I still long to build a pretty wooden play structure in the backyard. That, at least wouldn't be plastic and I know they would play with it. On the other hand, it occurs to me that if we built a backyard playground, my days of throwing all the kids outside including the toddler to roam relatively safely within the confines of the fence would be gone. When I make the decision to take the kids to a park, I am there to watch them and spot the toddler when he chooses to try things far beyond his ability to safely climb alone. When I tell them to give me five minutes of quiet in the house by myself while they play outside, the toddler will still choose to try climbing things that he has no business scaling, but I won't be there to watch him.

Some day the big plastic things may be gone and my yard will be prettier, but they probably won't be replaced with a lovely wooden play structure. My inner laziness saves money and children's skulls!


At least you don't have the plastic play structures INSIDE THE HOUSE like a lot of people do. So you're miles ahead of most people with kids.

Posted by: NBS at May 5, 2008 03:36 PM

I know what you mean. We had a huge sand box until one day I got so fed up i ripped up the grass in one corner of the yard and dug a small hole. I then put edging along the side and dumped in a few bags of sand. It looks like it should be there now:)

Posted by: Kelsey Smith at May 5, 2008 05:14 PM

Falling off of play structures and hurting oneself is a rite of passage you are unfairly denying your children.

Bear in mind I grew up in pre-paranoid Brooklyn, where we had metal monkey bars and concrete beneath to fall on. Somehow we survived the experience.

Posted by: skinnydan at May 6, 2008 07:09 AM

It took me eons to learn how to slide down the bars of those old metal jungle gyms without knocking my breath out.

Posted by: Janis Gore at May 6, 2008 03:07 PM

Yeah, but that's a life skill you take with you forever.

Posted by: skinnydan at May 7, 2008 07:46 AM

And I wish our yard were fenced in so I could send the big boys out for a few minutes. We have a plastic 2-yr-old-type slide, a couple of plastic ride-on toys, and a fairly ugly little canopy swing (which is the one I bought- only $15!) I actually really would like a sandbox for the boys, and I've been looking at plastic ones. There are worse things!

Posted by: Lenise at May 7, 2008 03:13 PM

Actually, Lenise, the worst problem with the plastic sandboxes is that children consider them too small and restricting. The lid is a really nice feature though.

Too bad I can't send our old sandbox to you guys.

Posted by: Jordana at May 8, 2008 07:15 AM

Your post was great- As we become parents we sacrifice a nice landscape for our kids far too often! If you reconsider on the play structure, check us out at where we make custom, beautiful, eco-friendly, and safe swingsets for families.
Happy spring!
Liz R.

Posted by: Liz Renter at May 9, 2008 07:11 AM