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Charlottetown Park

Equipment by Blue Imp.

Surface: rubber.

In my quest to find great playgrounds in Toronto, it’s important for me to keep in mind that kids don’t need a great playground to have fun. Charlottetown Park, for me, served as a good reminder of that crucial fact of childhood.

This is not a very good playground.

Also: my kids had a fantastic time at this playground.

We went because the kids requested a “new skate park” – meaning a skate park that we hadn’t visited yet. We’ve already done most of Toronto’s skate parks (and found some really good ones, too) but I was aware that there was one way out at the eastern edge of the city that we hadn’t seen yet. The Port Union, or “crossroads” skate park, is in Charlottetown Park, so that’s where we found ourselves on a hot July day.

A fairly large park bordered by two schools, Charlottetown also features a rec centre, private tennis courts, a ball hockey rink, and lots of open space. After a few minutes in the skate park (it was blazing hot, and skate parks can sometimes feel like frying pans) we headed over to the playground.

As we approached, its un-inspiring equipment and meagre shade seemed unappealing. There were a couple of slides, swings, and some interesting monkey bars, but I was a bit worried that the morning was going to be a bit of a dud. But I had forgotten that my kids are far less judgmental than I am, and when they’re in the mood to have fun, they can make their own fun anywhere.

We spent a good 30 minutes playing underneath the main play structure; it has one of those “corner store” shop counter things where kids can pretend to sell ice cream or lemonade or whatever, and my two had a wonderful time selling me pinecones, leaves, and twigs. I didn’t have any cash, but fortunately they accepted wood chips as payment.

After one of them discovered a crab apple on the ground, and then subsequently a pair of crab apple trees heavy with fruit, we spent another 30 minutes picking apples and placing them in a hole near the bottom of the trees where, I was informed, “the fairies will get them.”

So that was a solid hour of joyful, creative play at a playground that was objectively on the wrong side of the bell curve of the nearly 150 Toronto playgrounds we had visited to that point. (Important side note: it was also an hour that I had spent playing with them, rather than sitting passively on a bench calling out “be careful” every five minutes…I’m all for independent play, but sometimes you’ve gotta get in there and be with them.)

As we were getting ready to leave, a butterfly landed on the play structure, which itself was decorated with two metal butterflies at its top. It was a beautiful moment, and the perfect ending to the morning.

In conclusion: do I recommend this playground? No.

But I do recommend remembering that the ratings on this blog are more for us parents than for our kids. There is, in a certain sense, no such thing as a bad playground, and most kids can make their own fun no matter where they go.

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