Today's lucky find was the Peirce School Playground.
The playground is actually divided in two; the upper part has a climbing structure designed for smaller kids. The lower part has a big climbing structure with no less than three (three!) slides, two climbing wall-type structures, and various platforms, bridges, ladders, and bars.
We had the place to ourselves at first. Max tried one of the climbing walls. These aren't your typical climbing walls such as you'd find at the rock gym or on many home playground structures these days, with a vertical wall to which is attached small footholds and handholds. No, one of the climbing walls at Peirce is a short but steep angled wall with plates attached to the face. The other resembles a steep tower or peak with very small, grippy steps cut into it. Being a rock climber, I actually found this latter one more realistic than many typical climbing walls.
It might only rate as a 5.3 or so, but it realistically depicts the situation of climbing something steep with small hand- and toe-holds nestled into the face of the rock. You don't quite need to be on belay, but you need to be balanced and careful.
I was Max's belayer for this, if you will. "Mommy, help!" I knew he could do it himself, but he wanted the security of my hands, as he'd never climbed something like this. He clambered up it, with some help and encouragement. I think he is more used to (and thus prefers) the chain ladders he lately likes to climb.
Then he demanded that I follow him down the steepest, highest slide. It's winding and fast. There are two other winding slides, not quite as long, but we didn't try them.
Because it's something he and his friend Sienna are in the habit of, halfway through a playground visit, Max led me to a nearby picnic table for snacktime. I sensed it was more out of habit than real hunger, though, so after a few chedder bunnies and raisins, I encouraged him back to the climbing structure.
But hey—what's all that? Children poured out of the school and onto the playground. Big kids! What toddler doesn't like big kids? Max trotted on over to play with them, nearly getting mowed down by the girls on the swings who were singing what would seem like all 107 verses of "Oh My Darlin' Clementine" (I'm pretty sure they made up the last 92 verses or so).
He joined some big girls near the balance beam. They were talking about big-girl stuff, so I tried not to listen in, but Max wanted to get right in there with them. They were polite but not effusively friendly to this toddler intruder.
They crossed the balance beam—a metal balance beam two feet off the ground, with springs connecting the beam pieces to each other in a few places, to give it some bounce. Max followed them out. Then the girls performed synchronized somersaults over the handrails.
"Max do it!" Max told me, watching them. "Max do it!"
What's a mom to do? I lifted him up, tummy on the bar, and then rolled him over it. However, due to the height of the bar and our overall position, I couldn't safely flip him all the way around it, so he just tummied over it and then I lifted him upright.
He would not be fooled. "No, Max do it!" he said, pointing to the bar.
I explained that somersaults are for bigger kids and that he should try the balance beam again. Thankfully, a ball came flying over from the basketball court, so Max chased that (a big boy beat him to it).
The children went back into the school, beckoned by some signal known only to them, and we bade the playground goodbye as the next wave of big kids swarmed out through the doors.
We'll be back.