We spent the morning down at the brand new and refurbished spectacular multilayered Hamilton Lake playground this morning. It’s amazing. It has water play, a massive roundabout that could fit a dozen kids at once, a super tall slide, ropes, a wooden castle to climb up, in an on with activities nailed to the wall. There’s a toddlers playground, a sand pit, and a whole suite of swings. It’s mammoth.
It was 9.30am and already hot and heaving with children. My kids arrived wearing shoes which they soon decided were unnecessary, so I quickly popped them in the car, grabbed my hat, went back to where I’d left them, to be greeted by tears. Literally 20 seconds inattention – must be a record. My youngest (4) was hobbling over to me propped up by her concerned big sister and another father close behind to let me know she’d “face planted” coming off the roundabout. First Aid applied on the side of the playground (water to the sore knee, a cuddle and a biscuit) and she was ready to rejoin the others. But they’d disappeared. I scanned the crowd and throngs frantically and found one, down the water play track a bit. I continued to scan for the other child to no avail. I turned back to where I’d spotted the first one, but she’d gone, scanning again, I found my son on the roundabout wheel. Standing smack-bang in the middle of the playground it became a vicious and tense cycle of finding one, two but never three of my children at once.
By the time I had located and sunscreened the oldest two, rescued the youngest from the tower, sunscreened her, but lost the oldest two, found them again, I had well and truly lost the youngest. Panic set in. It is a mortifying feeling of instant terror when you realise you can’t lay eyes on your child after a good thorough look in all the places she might be. Sternly, I grabbed the other two and pulled them out of the middle of the play area. With a sigh of relief I finally spotted my third at the edge of the park on a swing. I maintained a strong grip on my oldest two as I marched down with a flood of relief sweeping over my body. You want to be angry, but actually you’re just glad it’s all over. We sat on the edge of the water and had a picnic. There was a bit of tussling and cross words (as there always is with my assertive 8 year old) and then they started climbing over the dry rocks at the edge of the lake to get closer to the ducks. They played beautifully, and happily, for another twenty minutes, climbing from rock to rock, sharing discoveries, coming back for more snacks and never getting lost.
It was lovely and a stark comparison to the chaos behind me. They have created a marvellous, spectacular, outstanding, layered, engaging and multi-faceted playground. But it was nothing compared the rocks, ducks and water’s edge where they could calmly explore, discover and have a good time. It’s where we’ll head straight to next time – Nature’s Playground.