Tot Lot Park – Kirkland

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I’ve heard about Tot Lot for years and finally made it there… its claim to fame is that it’s a fully fenced park, so it’s easy to sit and relax while your tots have fairly free run of the space. (Another fully fenced park is Phyllis Needy, in southern Kirkland.) It’s also flat, so there’s not the walking challenge for new walkers that some of our hilly parks pose.

The main climbing structure is pictured above, and is good for the 2 – 6 year old crowd.

There are three swings: a kids’ swing, a toddler bucket swing, and an ADA swing.

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There’s also a cement turtle sculpture kids can climb on that’s surrounded by wood chips. (Many people call this “the turtle park.”)

There’s a car built of pipes you can climb in to and on to.

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There’s a fun sandbox area. Families have left lots of sand toys to play with. (There’s also lots of ride-upon toys scattered freely about the grass.)

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When we were there in early June, there was a GREAT old slide, but it’s slated to be replaced sometime this summer, and I’m not sure when that’s happening. (It may have already happened). It’s an old style metal slide, with three bumps. They’re big enough bumps that our 42 pound kid “catches air” going over them. He’d say “ouch, ouch, ouch” on the way down as he went over each bump, but he continued to ride the slide over and over, so I think he liked it.

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There’s a fair amount of shade at the park. There’s a couple picnic tables in the shade for snack time or for parents to sit and socialize at. There’s a trash can just outside the gate – they ask that you pack your stuff out if possible, but if not, please use the trashcan, don’t leave your trash! There is a porta-potty there.

There’s also a pea patch program at Tot Lot.

More info at: Active Rain; My Parks and Recreation.

The park is at 111 9th Ave, just north of downtown Kirkland.

For reviews of more local parks, click on the words Seattle area in the right sidebar (on desktops – or scroll to the bottom on mobile devices). Or click on toddler dates for ideas for cheap fun things to do with toddlers

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Van Aalst Park in Kirkland

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Van Aalst Park in the Norkirk area of Kirkland has just opened a brand new playground. We went there today to check it out. It has some fun, unique items I have not seen before in another playground.

Teeter Totter (Seesaw)

My favorite is this teeter totter (Note: click on any image for a larger photo)

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From the pictures, you can tell one of the cool things about it: it has a ring in the center where a child can sit and be rocked back and forth. But even cooler – this is one of the best kinesthetic seesaw experiences I’ve seen / had. On a typical seesaw, it’s just a plank, and you sit behind a handle on one end. If you have two kids on there who are completely different weights, you have to balance it by putting one on the end behind the handle, and one sits somewhere on the other side between the handle and the center, like in this picture. (photo credit: P6141315 via photopin (license))  But they pretty much have to sit still in that place. And only a few people can ride at once.

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On this one, it’s big enough that 3 – 4 kids can fit on each side (plus the kid in the middle makes up to 9 kids of varying ages and weights!) If there’s only a few kids, they have a lot of room to move back and forth on their side to find the sweet spot for balance. In the first two photos, you can see a team of three boys who had it figured out… the solo kid would scoot all the way back while the other two ran in and leaned in till it tipped. Then the pair would walk toward the end until it teetered their way. There was lots of giggling and shrieking involved!

I could teeter totter with my son, who weighs 40% what I weigh, and I could also teeter totter with my husband who weighs 170% what I weigh. This sometimes involved one person perched out on the VERY end of one side leaning outward, while the other person stood in the center, leaning inward over the center piece. But you could do it!

Merry-go-Bounce. From the picture, you might think this is a merry-go-round, which spins. But, it doesn’t turn at all – it’s mounted on springs and it bounces up and down when you walk and jump on it. We saw kids playing alone on it, moms and kids, and group of five middle school girls.

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Washboard Slide. This slide has two sections in it that have little spinning rods (kind of like the conveyor belt in airport security lines where your carry-on and bins get rolled along.) It’s a fun novelty. My son said it felt a little different (more “rumbly-bumpy” than a typical slide.) I tried it out and agreed – it wasn’t crazy different, but it was interesting. When climbing up the slide, don’t put  your feet on the washboard!

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Climbing ramps / belts: There were four rubber ramps on each side of the climber. The 3 – 4 year olds would scale them using their hands and feet. My five year old could walk up. The big boys would run up one side and down the other. They’re an interesting challenge, just because you have to walk a little differently on a flexible ramp that has a little “give.”

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Balance Beam: The ramps lead up to a narrow beam, for balancing on, with a rope above to hold onto to steady yourself.

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Mini Swings: Under the balance beam were these little mini-swings / seats – they don’t swing much, but my son liked them.

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Swings: They were installing the new swings while we were there. It took a REALLY long time. But it looks like there will be one kid swing and one toddler/bucket swing. When we left, the kid swing was hung really high – the perfect height for an adult male!

More details to help you plan a visit

Note: there is no shade over the playground, so not the best place on a hot day. You MIGHT be able to find a spot of shade away from the playground to sit for a snack. This playground is not fenced at all and has neighborhood roads on three sides. It’s built on a hill, and at the top of the hill is a basketball court, but really the basketball court and playground are the only attractions. No bathrooms.

I have been to this park three times in the past few years, all on BEAUTIFUL sunny spring days, and been the only family there. My son was disappointed each time to not have anyone to play with. Today it was busier – a couple people came to check out the new equipment. Then, since it was Wednesday early dismissal, lots of kids stopped by on their way home from the nearby elementary school – some with parents, some on their own.

The park is at 335 13th Avenue. The parks department website includes a few details including a link to a map / directions. There’s also a review on the Parks of Kirkland website (which is a great resource on local parks!!) but lots of their details are out of date with the old playground structure gone and this new one installed.

Check it out and comment to let me know what you thought!

For reviews of more local parks, click on the words Seattle area in the right sidebar (on desktops – or scroll to the bottom on mobile devices). Or click on toddler dates for ideas for cheap fun things to do with toddlers.

Deane Children’s Park on Mercer Island

One of the joys of living in King County is our parks departments… even after 25 years of living here, and 21 years of parenting, which leads me to park after park, I am still discovering truly fabulous new-to-me parks. Today’s discovery was Deane Children’s Park on Mercer Island.

This morning, I turned to a trusty resource: ParentMap. Specifically, this article on the most adventurous playgrounds around Seattle. They pointed to Deane’s as having one of the best climbing wall playgrounds. (A few weeks ago, we checked out Jefferson Park in south Seattle, which was also mentioned in this article. Jefferson Park is fabulous! Our son loved the zip line and the really tall, really fast slide.)

Deane Children’s Park is located at Island Crest Park, 5500 Island Crest Way on Mercer Island, just south of Island Park school. It is the same park that hosts the Adventure Playground (more on that below.)

Here’s what we found at Deane’s (click on any photo to see a bigger version of it):

The climbing wall playground:

IMG_20150807_111756466The big playground:

IMG_20150807_111823990The castle playground:

Picture1And the dragon playground:

Picture2Yes, that’s four separate fabulous playground areas, all within spitting distance of each other! All of which are good enough on their own to justify a trip to Mercer Island. And that’s not counting the two areas with swings, or the climbing sculpture by the entrance. Or the little hikes through the woods, or the xylophone, or cool little details on the playgrounds like the abacus. (Note: the xylophone is dedicated to Judy Witmer, who has been lead teacher at Mercer Island Learning Lab – a program of Bellevue College Parent Education – for about 30 years.) The dragon playground has a fun history – the original dragon was built in 1965. By 2013, it was in poor condition. The arts coordinators on Mercer Island went searching for the original sculptor – they found him, now an 81 year old artist living in Montana. Here’s the story of how he created the new dragon.

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And… there’s also the Adventure Playground. Where they hand kids hammers, nails, safety goggles, and wood, and let them build whatever they want! Read my post on it here.

If you have a child who is five or over who likes to build, check it out!

IMG_20150807_111731160So, lots of great play areas in one park. And, as you can see from the photos, plenty of shade for hot summer days. We had a fabulous time there today, ending with bagels from Einstein’s on our way home.

Read about more local parks: St. Edward’s, OO Denny and Big Finn Hill in Juanita; Farm Parks in Bellevue and Redmond; the dog park at Marymoor. Or check out ParentMap for lots more park reviews.