Observations on a French playground

When the days are warm we head to the playground after school. Every parent, or whoever picks up the little toddler from school, has the same idea. Our favorite playground is enclosed with a short fence, there are two gates, and it has three large areas to play and four small areas. I just mean there are seven playground things for kids to be on. There are green metal benches all around the fence, for parents to sit on and a few trees around.

French children usually dress impeccably. And by that I mean if you can imagine what French children dress like based on a movie or book you saw or read, you will probably be correct. They all wear scarves, Mary Jane shoes or what I call a loafer, shirts on hot days, skirts with a shirt and sweater, sometimes a hat, and they are set free in the playground to do whatever they wish.

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JW pushing his friend

The slides have that soft playground padding surrounding them, while the slide/climbing set for the big kids has rocks underneath. Not hurt you rocks, but small gravel, sufficient for padding and for the little ones to throw happily in the air.

Parents will gather on the benches and visit, I think they are gossiping but the French speak fast and in groups like this more than one is speaking, and I listen slowly. I just like to imagine they are, and not in a malicious way, but just visiting excitedly. On occasion a child will run to someone, to complain, to ask something, to get a snack.

The fence feels secure. My son knows not to leave it and he will usually find someone he knows to play with, though on a school day the playground is full of children from another nearby school, not his. The kids chase each other until it’s time to leave, they play touché (which is basically tag), they take turns following each other down the slide.

Older kids are outside the gate usually playing soccer, but occasionally riding a scooter. The entire park takes up the space of a city block so there is a very large gazebo, more benches, and a merry go round in the same space, all of that outside of the fence of the playground. The park is named after the U.S. President Wilson and there is a memorial for the Second Infantry Division.

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