Playing Around Town
local mom takes son on tour of Eau Claire’s neighborhood parks
"Is today a park day, mom?,” my three- year-old son, Daley, recently asked with excitement. A few months ago, we set a goal to visit every neighborhood park in Eau Claire. Would you have guessed that there are 18? According the City of Eau Claire’s website, the Parks Maintenance Division is responsible for maintaining nearly 650 acres of parkland, which includes the 18 neighborhood parks that we visited, school open sites (e.g. Robins Elementary School, Northstar Middle School), community parks (e.g. Phoenix Park, Carson Park, Owen Park), and urban parks/special areas/athletic fields (e.g. Putnam Park, Bollinger Fields). We averaged one neighborhood park visit per week, but on some days we visited a couple of parks if they were near each other. Exploring the different areas of Eau Claire as we tried to locate each park was especially interesting.
Our main focus was on the playground area of each park, but we watched as teenagers flew kites at Demmler Park, as residents exercised dogs at Kessler Park, and as kids played basketball at Boyd Park.
An article entitled, “Let Them Play,” in the July 2010 issue of Parents magazine claims that unstructured play at neighborhood recreation areas “hones children’s intellectual and social gifts; it instills them with a sense of fairness and judgment; it builds their bodies with muscle and know-how; it endows them with competence.”
Based on our 18 neighborhood park visits, I would have to agree. Daley learned how to take turns on the swings, how to share the toys other children had brought from home, and how to fine-tune his coordination and confidence as he climbed higher on the ladders.