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A Parent’s Guide to Playground Games

This summer, we spent many mornings touring playgrounds all over the metro area. It’s challenging to find playgrounds that are fun for all my kids, so they often play classic playground games to make the experience more fun. The best part about playground games is it’s a great way to meet other kids. I find it odd and miraculous no matter where we’ve been, kids seem to know the same games. There aren’t lengthy explanations of the rules. One kid will shout, “Who wants to play Groundies?” and before you can scamper up the big slide, kids are introducing themselves to each other.

Often, I’d sit on my bench and watch them tear around and wonder what they were doing. After consulting with kids, I’ve developed a guide for other parents so they too can know the rules of Groundies, the nuances of Infection, the joys of clogging the toilet.

Groundies: To play Groundies, you need a minimum of three people, a maximum of about a million. Mostly, according to my nine-year-old, you want to make sure everyone can fit on the play equipment. The group decides one person to be It. The rest climb up on the play equipment. The person who is It counts to ten while everyone gets into place. She can keep her eyes open while on the ground. Once she reaches ten, she has to find the other kids. If she climbs up onto the play equipment, she must close her eyes while she searches for a kid to tag. The kids must be quiet so she won’t find them. If she comes near, they might move off the play equipment. If they touch the ground, she can yell “Groundies!” which makes the ground-toucher automatically It. If she tags someone while on the equipment, they become It. Obvious dangers of this game include running around on playground equipment with one’s eyes closed. I suspect a bit of cheating occurs because it it didn’t, our family would probably have a fleet of wheelchairs and a wing named after us at the local hospital.

Colorado’s Nearly Perfect Playgrounds

We are lucky to have several stellar playgrounds and parks in Colorado. It seems like every city or suburb wants to out-do each other. With each new playground opening, families are the winners in this fierce competition.

But still, I dream of the Ultimate Playground, with all the best features brought together in one astonishing configuration of fun. Here are the best features of the best playgrounds in Colorado. If recreation planners took each element, they could build a super-playground. It may even be able to fold itself into a massive crime-fighting robot given the right conditions.

The Perfect Playground has Water Features:

It seems like every new playground includes fountains. They go by different names, including splash pads, spray-grounds, band-aid looseners, and place-to-get-your-sandwich-soaking-wet. Everyone appreciates these spots to cool off. Some cities are debuting parks dedicated to just water features. Late last summer, Lakewood opened Surfside Park. It’s only $1 per person, walking age and over. Thoughtful features include covered picnic tables, bathrooms, and a splashy play area for just babies and toddlers.

The Perfect Playground Realizes Not Every Kid is Aged 5-12:

One of the biggest frustrations is finding playgrounds with equipment suitable for all age groups. We’ve been to playgrounds perfect for preschoolers, but boring for everyone else. We’ve also been to playgrounds that only seem to have big kids in mind. Teenagers are often left out completely. Contrary to popular thought, playgrounds aren’t just make-out spots for shiftless teens. Many still want to play! One of the best playgrounds for families with kids in multiple age groups is Louisville’s Community Park. There’s everything from a sandbox for little ones to a climbing boulder for big kids. My teenage son actually fell asleep on top of it one day. Bonus features: A small splash pad, a large covered pavilion with a lot of picnic tables, drinking fountain, and bathrooms. Also, a dog park! Runner up: Canyon View Park in Grand Junction.

The Perfect Playground is Whimsical:

Hidden behind the Arvada Center is an almost-secret gem of a play area. A massive stone dragon snakes around on a padded play area. This playground is all-about climbing and imaginative play, although there is a sandy play area with a few smaller climbing features. In the summer, water misters turn on and cool down the stones—and you. Bonus features: picnic tables and benches under shady trees.

The Perfect Playground is Accessible:

Kids of all abilities deserve a safe, bright, clean, fun place to play. Northglenn has one of the best sensory parks in the metro area, engaging kids with all needs. This very popular park has everything, from a lake with paddleboat rental, paved trails, climbing boulders, sound toys, and typical playground equipment—with a twist. It’s nearly 100% wheelchair accessible.

The Perfect Playground is Beautiful:

Colorado is rich in beautiful play spots. It’s our thing. But someone’s got to occupy the top. If it’s not the cherry, it’s at least the whipped cream. Centennial’s Center Park is a beautiful, award-winning hunk of heaven. From the hilltop parking lot view of the Front Range to the snaking trail down to the play area to the art work…to the bathrooms themselves…is one eye-candy moment after another. Yep, even the bathroom building is pretty. I’m thinking about doing our family Christmas photo in front of it. The playground is multi-leveled. It has splash fountains, little kid areas, and big kid areas. During one of our visits, a family claimed the picnic table next to us. They pulled out a tablecloth, dishes, and served dinner replete with wine served in goblets for mom and dad. (not sure on the legality of that) Bonus: Throughout the park, visitors can learn tidbits about Colorado history, geography, and wildlife. Educational!

The Perfect Playground has a Choo-Choo Train:

My toddler demanded I include this. Choo-Choos can be the belt of the giant playground/robot transformer. Parks with little trains include Englewood’s Belleview Park and Loveland’s North Lake Park. They run seasonally and charge small ticket fees. Bonus: Belleview Park also has a petting zoo.

Combine the elements of water, accessibility, beauty, multi-age, whimsy, and choo-choo trains and you get The Perfect Playground. Activate! I can see it now, folding into a giant robot spreading love, fighting boredom, encouraging exercise, and promoting Vitamin D levels. Also handy when aliens invade.