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Vermont Square Park

Surface: sand.

Visiting the Dennis Lee playground at Vermont Square Park this summer was an interesting experience for me, because it gave me the chance to check on something that had been bugging me a little.

We’d been to this playground years ago, when my youngest was barely two years old and the idea to do all this rating and reviewing was still just that; an idea. So I rated it and added it to the playground map, but didn’t take any photos or do an official review.

I knew I liked it, but as the years went by and we went to more and more playgrounds, I started to wonder whether I have overrated it. Was it really an 87? Was it really a hidden gem? Or was I so naïve back in those early days of parenting that I would give that kind of praise to anything even slightly impressive?

Well I’m happy to report that it is, in fact, that good.

The big wooden ship might not be as fabulous as I remembered it, and there are certainly many playgrounds that look more impressive from the street. But Vermont Square Park is great because of its variety, plentiful shade, and general coziness.

Henderson’s wooden ship climber is still the highlight. It’s showing its age, despite an install date of 2011, simply because of the amount of use it gets. But it’s still ship-shape, and plenty of kids were happily playing on (or under) it during our visit.

There’s lots else going on here too: a wading pool, a spinner with four seats, swings for small and medium and large kids. A hand-operated digging tool sits near some free-standing balance elements shaped like a wake board and a skateboard.

There’s also a sand pit with a water feature, and a toddler play structure that’s carefully placed far away from the larger boat structure, which must be a relief for parents of littles who are worried about their toddler being bowled over by a big kid pretending to be a pirate.

Much of the playground (other than the big climber) is wonderfully shaded, and the extensive bench seating is a nice touch. There are also – curiously – several wooden posts with holes drilled into them. Some of these holes have mirrors inside, others are covered with wire, some go right through. They have no discernible function, but that’s why they’re so great; they encourage a kind of non-prescribed play that is often missing from playgrounds.

Along with other west side “square” parks like Sibelius and Dovercourt, Vermont Square feels wonderfully communal and comfortable, like a huge front yard that the neighbourhood shares. Highly recommended.

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