People without children wonder why parents define their kids’ ages in months instead of years. It can feel unnecessarily mathematical to try and decipher what age a 22-month-old is. There’s a simple explanation. For the first two years of their lives, kiddie products are sized and labelled in months. Diapers, formula, baby food, rompers – most of them are marked by the month.
Then, suddenly, toys and books get packaged ‘For ages 3 and up’, so parents unconsciously make the transition from months to years. Then, once those complex calculations are in their past, they also start to wonder about the month-math. Anyway, in terms of play-sets, there’s a world of difference between 3-year-olds and 10-year-olds.
Your toddlers are still learning to speak, move, and assert themselves. They recently learned the word ‘no’ and while they’re still more likely to ignore it when you utter it, they will liberally use it against you (and other kids). Meanwhile, your tweens feel pretty grown up and are moving through the world like short teenage terrors.
Corporal and mental
Character aside, their physical abilities vary too. And their thought processes, which means they need different levels of both manual and imaginative play. You want play-sets that will challenge their physique without over-extending them and causing major injury. The occasional tumble off the slide is fine at any age, but you don’t want a 4-year old falling 10m. It won’t end well.
That’s one of your first selection criteria – the potential fall-height. Much as you can lay loose sawdust and rubber mats below your play-set, the height can still cause fear and injury. So for kids aged three to five, you want to keep your play-sets relatively close to the ground. Go for rockers and spring play like Billy Cart or Rocket Mite.
For added stimulation, get animal-based rockers, like Joey the kangaroo, Wooly the sheep, Larry the lion, or Heather the hen. Older kids aged 5 or 6 might still like springy play, but they might be more interested in something more … mature. Skateboard, surfboard, and snowboard rockers still incorporate a spring, but because they’re longer, standing toys rather than sit-down rockers, your older kids may perceive them as more exciting and risqué.
Balance beams for babies
These standing rockers are better suited to their motor skills. They build up kids’ posture instead of just offering soothing movements. In that sense, they’re more age-appropriate. You could also install a See-soar, teaching the kids a bit of intrinsic science as they counterbalance their weight against each other. They’ll need a safety lesson first though, and close supervision, because multiple teeth have been lost to see-saw pranksters.
On occasion, you can gauge your kids’ sense of themselves – with supervision of course. Buy them a comprehensive Quadro construction kit and let them go nuts. It can also be a cheeky way to teach tidy-up lessons. Tell the kids they can play any Quadro they want, as long as they assemble it themselves and dismantle it when they’re done. Quadro cubes, play-centres, and mega-play-centres are suitable for kids under 10.
Their furniture kits are great for homework nooks, but they can also be repurposed for imaginary play. Any game that involves a desk / table / counter works well, so they can assemble their furniture to play house, shop, bank, or toll booth. Some of the desk-builder kits even have swivel chairs, and are sturdy enough to support the average ten-year-old’s weight.
Widening your scope
Meanwhile, Quadro mega-play-centres are complex enough to construct battleships, mini cities, islands, and malls, as long as there’s enough time and space. On the other hand, if the idea is to keep the kids outdoors, opt for modular trampolines instead. You’re not restricted to the traditional design. Install grass-coloured ones below ground level.
Visually, they resemble a particularly springy patch of ground, and the advantage of having them ‘underground’ is the reduced opportunity for injury. If they jump too high for your comfort, they’ll fall onto the ground at surface level, meaning their fall-height is significantly reduced. Plus, this type of trampoline blends beautifully into your yard space.
If nature is important to you, supplement your grassy trampolines with a type of sand-and-water play-space, like the Huntley. Its ladders and platforms can stimulate your 8 to 10 year-olds while younger kids can still embrace the tactile play of manipulating sand and water. Its multi-level platforms can also offer a quiet spot for kids that like to read or people-watch. It doesn’t need much space – about 6m2, with a fall space that’s just under a metre.