Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Best Playgrounds for YOUNG Toddlers (10-20 months)

Rainbow Park's low structure is great for young toddlers
I'll begin this post with a news flash that is totally self-evident, but sometimes easy to forget all the same: Toddlers grow up. Fast. The rate of development -- physical, cognitive, social -- in those 30 or so months we commonly call "the toddler years" is absolutely astounding.

Buried in the day-to-day...um, let's call them "joys"...of raising Toddler X, it's easy for me to forget that he's a very different little person at 2 1/2 years old than he was at 2, or at 20 months, or at 18 months, when I started this blog. And, going even further back, it's hard to fathom what he was like when he was a true "toddler" at, say, 12 or 15 months, still figuring out how to keep his feet underneath him when he walked.

Not surprisingly, his playground needs (and mine!) are much different today than when he took his first steps in February 2013. I recall our first visit to Houge Park, when Toddler X was 13 months, and our early visits to Bramhall/Willow Park when he was not much older. What I would now call the "toddler structures" were terrifying to me then -- every bridge seemed like an opportunity for a slip, and every chest-high opening was a place where he would plummet to...well, I didn't even want to think about it. By the time I started this blog, when he was about 18 months, those structures had begun to seem more appealing; now, at 30 months, they are absolutely perfect.

Ground level play features at Seven Seas Park
So it struck me last night, as I was re-arranging some of the winners in my Top Playgrounds list, that naming "Best Toddler Playgrounds" is not a one-size-fits-all challenge. Structures that would appeal to young toddlers -- or even "cruisers", who are right on the edge of toddling -- do not necessarily appeal to older toddlers, and vice versa. With my reviews now focused on my playground experiences with a 2 1/2 year old, its important to remember that many of my readers have much younger children, and that new readers, with newly-minted toddlers, are joining the Silicon Valley Toddler family every day.

That is why I've decided to break down my "Best Toddler Playgrounds" category into two lists -- one for young toddlers (and almost-toddlers), aged 10 - 20 months, and another for older toddlers/preschoolers, aged 20 months - 3 1/2 years.

Great low play structure at Varian Park
What makes a great playground for young toddlers, who fall often and are just learning to climb? In my opinion, it will generally have: (i) sand or the squishy rubber stuff for a ground surface (no tanbark), (ii) easily accessible play structures (with low steps or ramps, rather than big climbing features) and/or play features at ground level, and (iii) no openings much above four feet, where a tipsy toddler (or one not accustomed to making wise decisions...which is all of them) could take a big spill. Baby swings are a huge plus too (ideally, situated far from the play structures -- this age group is notorious for wandering in front of swings), as are water and sand features where young toddlers can play without fear of being trampled.

Low flying fun at Lincoln Glen

So, here goes -- check out the new list of Silicon Valley Toddler's Best Playgrounds for YOUNG Toddlers!

Happy toddling, little ones!
  1. Seven Seas Park (Sunnyvale) (Fenced toddler section includes great ground level features, unique structure, cute squishy ground surface and nice sand area; water feature/splash pad is spacious, so young toddlers won't get trampled.)
  2. Rainbow Park (West San Jose) (One of our favorite structures when Toddler X was very young -- low to the ground, but with plenty of fun features and climbing options, as well as a water spigot to make a great sandy bog and two baby swings that are often in the shade.)
  3. Comanche Park (San Jose -- Blossom Valley) (A brand new playground with an array of cool, ground to knee-level features for younger tots, rubberized ground surface and a baby swing.)
  4. Lincoln Glen Park (Willow Glen) (An ideal fenced play area for young toddlers, with a low structure separated by a good distance from the sand area, which in turn is separated from the swings.)
  5. Houge Park (Cambrian) (Houge has three major play structures, many baby swings, and lots of ground level options; its smallest structure, set over sand, is great for very young toddlers.)
  6. Varian Park (Cupertino) (A recent find, I wish we'd known of this one when Toddler X was younger -- it has a completely shaded, very low, but feature-rich toddler play structure and baby swings, a good distance away from the big kid structure -- big negative is tanbark though.)
  7. Cahalan Park (Blossom Valley) (Like Houge, Cahalan has multiple structures geared for different ages, with a ground level one for cruisers and one slightly higher -- the same as Hogue's smallest one -- which was perfect at around 16 months.
  8. War Memorial Playground (Santa Clara) (One of our favorites then, and now -- a fun ant theme with a relatively tame play structure and lots for young toddlers to climb on/experiment with.)
  9. Jack Fischer Park (Campbell) (A perfect playground for a youngster who loves to get mucky, with a waterfall/sand feature that creates a great bog, as well as a toddler climbing structure with no real fall points and two baby swings.)
  10. Calabazas Park (West San Jose) (Great play structure for young toddlers, with no high drops and plenty of features -- only issue is the tanbark underneath.)
  11. Central Park (Santa Clara) (While the play structure is not great, there is a ground-level play feature for young toddlers/cruisers, as well as a great sand/water play feature and several baby swings (be careful for collisions).)
  12. Alvarez Park (Santa Clara) (One of our all-time favorite parks, the toddler structure at Alvarez is great for both younger and older toddlers; though it has a higher side, it is ramp accessible with lots of ground level features and low slides as well, and is situated over sand.)
So there you have it! If your little one is just beginning to toddle, or is still working on his or her balance, these are parks that are just right for you! Please pass this list along to the young toddlers or toddlers-to-be in your life.

Let me know if there are any others I should add to this list -- I'm always open to suggestions. Happy toddling!

Please note that posts on this page may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Please note that these reviews are based on my observations or experiences on the day(s) I visited the park in question, with my own particular toddler. Park conditions can change, the clientele may vary day to day, and things that are safe and fun for one child may not be for another. I do not vouch for the safety or security of any of the parks or playgrounds listed here, and I recommend that you use your own best judgment when determining whether to visit or stay at a park, and whether that park is appropriate for your toddler.

1 comment:

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