Playgrounds Real and Imagined

Nicole Bein­stein Strait is the recent co-author with George Strana­han of Phlogs: jour­ney to the heart of the human predica­ment. She lives in Red­stone, CO with her hus­band and busi­ness part­ner (Strait Con­sult­ing LLC), and their two chil­dren.  She blogs for Out­doorBabyNet­work.

My hus­band just fin­ished five 14-hour days of build­ing our local ele­men­tary school’s play­ground in Car­bon­dale, Col­orado. It was a vol­un­teer effort spear­head­ed by moms and designed by chil­dren, because the school dis­trict can’t afford to pay for all the nec­es­sary labor. And yet, this is the way play­grounds should be con­struct­ed in any econ­o­my, with the time and sweat equi­ty of its recip­i­ent families.

But there’s an even bet­ter way to cre­ate a play­ground, and that’s to not build one at all, but to use nature as a jun­gle gym. Our camp­ing trip last month to Moab, Utah illus­trat­ed this point exquis­ite­ly. Right behind our spot, orange and red humps lent them­selves to all the chil­dren and young-at-hearts in the neigh­bor­hood, and to the lizards they love to chase.


Pho­tos cour­tesy of Nicole Bein­stein Strait

Once we set up camp, we didn’t have to go very far for enter­tain­ment; in fact the lazy grown-ups hard­ly had to leave our chairs. We watched the lit­tle girls and boys run up and down and around, inside crevices, sneak­ers grip­ping the sides of ragged rocks, imag­in­ing them­selves as trekkers dis­cov­er­ing new lands, high above the rul­ing world, look­ing below at human minia­tures, yelling and gig­gling and also whis­per­ing, hear­ing for their echoes, and singing with the wind.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Beinstein Strait

I wish play­ground com­pa­nies could devel­op play­grounds as effi­cient and per­fect as the ones the earth has already pro­vid­ed for us, but I am grate­ful any­way that schools and fam­i­lies are find­ing ways for kids to explore out­doors as edu­ca­tion bud­gets are cut deep­er than any water ero­sion ever could.


You can read more about the efforts to pro­vide chil­dren a safe and enjoy­able place to play here. And anoth­er big thanks to our friends at Out­doorBabyNet­work. We all love the out­doors and its won­der­ful that they’re will­ing to share their blog­gers with us to pro­vide a fam­i­ly perspective.

If you’d like to share your per­spec­tive on any­thing out­door or health and fit­ness relat­ed, please email me at