Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Playground Review: Lincoln Glen Park (Willow Glen)


Well, Toddler X and I have found it: the perfect playground. When I think about the factors and criteria I consider in evaluating a park for toddler friendliness, this may be the first playground I've encountered that warrants straight A's.

Welcome to Lincoln Glen Park, located on the corner of Curtner and Radio in the Willow Glen area of San Jose. This is, without a doubt, the most well-designed park for toddler fun and safety, and for parental relaxation and convenience, that I have ever seen. Here's why:

Pros:
-- Toddler play area is HUGE, the biggest I've seen at any park, and is fully fenced in and separate from the other areas of the park. 
-- Within the toddler area, the designers brilliantly separated the play space into different "zones" of sorts, with the play structure/apparatuses located a good distance from the two baby swings, which themselves are separated from the sand area. This helps prevent adventurous toddlers from running into the path of a moving swing (something I've seen at many parks, where the play areas were closely spaced) and makes it easier for a toddler follower to keep a little one out of the sand if desired. A center courtyard with a pergola for shade completes the toddler area. 
-- Toddler play structure is fantastic -- very low to the ground, with absolutely no dangerous openings, yet plenty of features to keep toddlers entertained. Even the steps within the structure were sized for a toddler's little legs. A parent can comfortably sit back and watch his or her child play from a distance. Ahhh...relaxation!
-- Play area also includes two darling spring toys, a spring teeter totter and three little "houses" with various play features. 
-- Two nice baby swings. 
-- Large, clean sand area with cute frog sculptures (which, according to another mom, used to shoot water at each other across the sand -- that feature apparently no longer works). 
-- Ground surface is primarily the squishy stuff I like so much, with some tan bark and sand.  
-- Wonderful water feature (outside the toddler area), with four alternating spouts from the ground and one pipe drenching kids from above. Children of all ages were enjoying it immensely, and although it was very crowded, everyone seemed to respect each other's space. Nice shaded planter boxes around the perimeter for toddler watchers to sit on and enjoy the spray. 
-- For the first time, I'm also including the "big kid" (age 5-12) play structure in a review, as this is the most toddler-friendly one I've seen. Though it is high off the ground and many features are NOT toddler friendly (e.g., the zip line, monkey bars, etc.), the structure has nice gridded sides on most of the high areas, and even the spots with large vertical drops are partially enclosed, reducing the likelihood of a toddler dive off a sheer cliff. Definitely a structure where the toddler follower should plan to be immediately behind or below the toddler (and of course you should make your own determination as to safety for your child), but of all the large play structures I've seen, this is one that I felt comfortable letting Toddler X explore. 
-- Park as a whole is clean and well-maintained, with bathrooms and a large grassy area that offered plenty of shade. 
-- Convenient street parking on Radio, a quieter residential street. There also may be parking in the Willow Glen Community Center lot, which backs up to the park (enter the lot from Lincoln Avenue). 

Cons (I'm scraping to come up with some, but it's my job to be critical, so here goes:)

-- Gates in toddler play area fence do not auto-close or auto-latch, and were repeatedly left open while I was there. 
-- In the toddler section, the sand in the sand area and the tan bark next to the play structure/below the teeter totter were both at strangely low levels, leaving a sizable drop from ground level to the surface below. Kids had to actually climb, rather than just step, into and out of the sand box, and one side of the teeter totter hovered well above ground level.
-- The drinking fountains were basically non-functional. 
-- Though the park is fenced along the busy Curtner Avenue side, there is a gate in that fence and it DOES NOT LOCK. Of course, Toddler X discovered this. Just be aware if you're letting your child run around next to the big kid play area. 

Final thought, which could be a pro or con depending on how social you are: I apparently am not the first person to discover this park. :) It's a very popular destination, and was packed during our visit today -- a Wednesday morning after school had started in most places. The toddler area is spacious enough that the crowds were comfortable, but there were a dozen kids in the water feature and loads on the big kid playground. 

The crowd was very friendly and I struck up conversations with several other parents and grandparents, but if you prefer a quieter park setting, this may not be the place for you. 

Of all the parks I've visited in the South Bay, however, this is the one I can most enthusiastically recommend. Bring some sand toys, a bathing suit and a towel, and go give Lincoln Glen a try!

3 comments:

  1. Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU for introducing us to this playground. My 13 month old, my 29 month old, and myself went here yesterday and I am HOOKED! It was so nice to have the fully fenced toddler yard and have it all open enough where I could supervise both children easily. Great find!! :)

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    1. Thanks so much for letting me know, Heather! I'm so glad you enjoyed it -- such a great park for toddlers!

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  2. Thank you for introducing this park to us! My 23-month-old son had a blast, and we're going to have his birthday party there. BTW, check out Lenzen Park (corner of Lenzen/Stockton in SJ; off Coleman, behind Target). I think it's one you would be pleased with too! :)

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