Friday, 10 April 2009

swinging between Germany and Scotland

You know where your home is when you know the way to the next swing park. And you know your home town is no longer that when you don't. So we've been looking for swing parks in the town I used to call my home. Thankfully, my general approach worked rather well - spot the mum with small child, smile and ask. If there's one thing about being a mum that's just amazing it's the ease of making mummy friends. All I wanted to know was the way to the nearest swing park and I end up chatting to a total stranger for the better part of an hour, while Cubling is playing happily with a new found friend who even understands her utterings. That's because it's pretty cool to raise kids bilingually here, even if there aren't two mother-father tongues in the household.

Anyway, swing park found (after ending up in what turned out to be my very own old kindergarten - it took me a while to recognise it but when I did, oh my strange it felt), I pondered how it only takes a glance for me to tell a German swingpark from a Scottish one. As ever, when I embark on comparisons, I haste to add that I don't think one is better than the other, they're just different. German swing parks have lots of sand. Sand pits, wooden climbing constructions in sand. And woodchips. Sometimes even little stones. Cubling loves playing with all three, and spends more time with it than using the actual items positioned for play. She likes it, so I like it. Scottish swing parks are usually built on some plastic bouncy material, safe, easy to maintain, colourful. I don't think I've ever been to one that would have sported a sand pit.

Items on German swingpark:
-wooden constructions for climbing, sometimes with wobbly bridge. Scottish equivalent: metal construction for climbing, usually with built in shoot. I have seen wooden ones in Scotland too.
- Then there's the swing - It's extremely rare to find a baby swing in German swing parks. That's a shame because Cubling likes them. Shoots: usually only one really big one in German swing parks, not so good for under 2s, but so much more fun if your child is over 2. Cubling is over 2.
- Roundabout: They are interestingly different but no way I could describe them.
- Seasaws: German ones are wooden logs, mostly, or some modern concoction. Scottish ones are colourful. Cubling likes both.
- Balancing things: Only in Germany, lots of varieties, Cubling likes them for 2 minutes, so not a great loss in Scotland although pretty fun for those short 2 minutes.

Above all it's the appearance of swing parks that's rather different. German ones seem sprung from the ground with lots of natural materials, while Scottish ones are a feast of colour and look very tidy (unless full of graffiti). I wonder whether there is some ideological undercurrent in this. Germans love their forest, forest kindergardens are very popular and outdoor play is important to the vast majority of parents. Maybe the Scottish approach is functional - ease of maintenance may play a role in the design, or maybe it's more to do with city (Glasgow) versus town (Dormagen)?

One thing is for sure though - the distance to the next swing park is always shorter in Scotland. Not that I mind a nice walk in the beautiful summer sunshine that has been with us so far. And Cubling now asks for "platz" (for Spielplatz, swing park) rather than "nyine" (her world for swing park). If she doesn't ask to see a giraffe - but that's another story, ehm, blog post.


Brit in Bosnia said...

I know the feeling, hunting down a playground in a strange city. And then you develop an encyclopedic knowledge of all playgrounds wherever you go. I feel I could write a book on good playgrounds in Bosnia (where I'm based right now). And so true that you can make friends with people whilst watching your kids race around, tiring themselves out!

Just came across your blog, and I'll be back as I enjoyed it very much.

cartside said...

Welcome to this blog! Thanks for passing by! I'm a playground addict because my little girl could spend all day on them giving us both a great time. Strangely, I never chat to strangers on Scottish playgrounds, it only ever happens in Germany. Not sure why...



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