The Indoor Playground, which has been a fixture of the Snoqualmie Valley community for many years, has recently acquired a new board. As a community member who has been a patron of the playground since its inception, I am very concerned with the direction this new board is taking.
The Indoor Playground has always been a place where children can meet to play indoors for a couple hours several times a week. The adults supervise their own children and socialize, and the children get to meet other children and play in an unstructured environment. I have brought all my children through and both they and myself developed strong, lasting friendships with the families we met there. When I returned to work my nanny would bring my children and her infant to play three times a week. It is a great asset to this community; the structure of it works and has proven itself for almost a decade.
So my question to the board would be, why change what already works? After attending the board meeting (earlier this month) I was disheartened by the attitudes and direction that the current leadership is considering taking. One issue that arose was to no longer welcome 6 year olds. As our school system will be opening it’s fifth elementary in the fall and all of them have at least two, half-day kindergarten classes, this is a huge portion of our community (including their younger siblings) that will be excluded. When my oldest son attended afternoon kindergarten, I went to the playground three days a week with him and my younger two in tow. They all benefited from the experience and there were never any problems. In fact, it was a great place to use up energy so that he was ready to sit quietly at school. As children must be 5 to start kindergarten, most of them will turn 6 during that year. A guideline for the playground has always been through 5 years of age, but has always included those kindergarten children who turn 6 during the school year.
Another issue raised was that their parent must accompany children. I believe the demographic of working parents is even larger than that of afternoon kindergartners and their siblings. When I returned to work, I was blessed with a friend who agreed to watch my children. Rather than being cooped up indoors, she took them to swimming lessons, library story time and three times a week to the Indoor Playground. My youngest son has enjoyed the Indoor Playground from the time he was born through all of his kindergarten year. Of those six years, I only was able to take him for the first year. My baby sitter took him for the last five.
One consideration the board was making was changing the age guidelines to be from 0 to 3. As a parent of three boys, I know that those are the easy years. A cleared space and empty cardboard box will keep a 3 year old busy for hours. The Indoor Playground benefits those park-age children who can’t be outside during much of our school year. They can peddle, climb, bounce the ball and learn the important social skills necessary in life.
The Snoqualmie Valley is a broad community. Children from many different neighborhoods are blended into our four existing elementary schools. They are then reshuffled into our two middle schools and end up back together in high school. My boys have long-standing friendships with many children they have never gone to school with. Many of those friendships started at the Indoor Playground and continued through youth sports. One of the board members last night said that the Indoor Playground no longer has the strong sense of community that it did at its inception. Maybe that is the problem that needs to be fixed. If rather than taking apart what is working, why not re-build what seems to have been lost? Instead of encouraging complaining and ascension amongst the visitors, why not introduce them to each other? A parent of a 3 year old must think those afternoon kindergarten children seem very old and very big. Why not invite them over and watch how great a 6 year old can be when encouraged to play with a younger child?
I hope the board will listen and that the community will speak up with regards to any changes made. We are privileged to have the Indoor Playground as part of our community. It fosters everything that is right in the Valley: family, friendship and community. It is a safe, affordable and fun place to pass a morning with friends and neighbors. It should not be closed to any segment of our population; in fact the doors should be flung open in welcome for everyone.