Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pittsburgh's Best Playgrounds for Young Children

My criteria for a great playground includes:
  1. Visibility. I have to be able to see my kids at all times. I have to be able to see from one side of the playground to the other with minimal obstructions. When you have multiple children running in multiple directions at the same time, you need to be able to keep visual contact easily. 
  2. Containment. It needs to be fully (or mostly) fenced in and protected from the roadway. It doesn't have to be a chain-link fence with a gate. It could be a simple line of shrubs or a post-and-rail fence. Just something to slow down a breakaway toddler long enough for me to catch them.
  3. Safety. It can't have too many high openings or drop-offs. You can't be with every child every second, so I need to be able to play zone defense with the fireman pole or rock climbing wall.
  4. Sun Protection. It needs to be at least partially shaded and/or have a pavilion nearby so we can get out of the sun.
  5. Distance from the Parking Lot. When you have toddlers, you need a quick escape. If you have to walk a mile to get to the playground, you'll have to walk that far back to your vehicle...possibly carrying a screaming child covered in something disgusting. I don't know about you, but I prefer to carry poop or puke covered children for as short a time as possible. 
With those criteria in mind, here's a list of my favorite playgrounds for the four-and-under crowd.

  • Oblock Playground (Plum)-just off of Center Road, it is new, has coushy rubber under the play apparatus, a fence/guard rail, and benches. It's lacking in shade, but they're continually updating it so I'm betting the'll put a pavilion in soon.
  • Universal Park Playground in (Penn Hills)-it has some high stuff, but they are "safe" with high rails and no openings up in the stratosphere. Cushy rubber base. Parking is close and there is shade with a full view of the playground. The downside is there isn't a barrier between the playground and the road.
  • Bartlett Playground (Schenley Park)-A very nice layout, but compact for easy todder-tracking. Parking is not too far and there is a fence. 
  • White Oak Park (McKeesport)-Although the play equipment is older here, there are plenty of things for little ones to do, places to sit, and close parking. There is a fence fully surrounding the playground. 
  • Fern Park (Monroeville)-If you're looking for a shaded playground, this is the one. Not close to the parking lot, however. The equipment is new and very safe. Nothing high here at all. Lots of benches and great visibility!
  • Hawkeye Park (Monroeville)-I think this is my favorite Monroeville playground. It has it all! Close to the parking lot. There are a couple of huge hickory trees shading most of the area and several benches. There is a pavilion nearby (but not right next to it.) You can see the whole play area from the benches and there aren't many (if any) danger areas. There's even a little sand pit to dig in! Hawkeye Park has a paved walking path, too. 
  • Harrison City Municipal Park-Great, new playground with a pavilion right next to it! It isn't very close to the parking lot, but the visibility and safety are excellent.
As far as my least favorites? There are a couple I really don't care for because they make me so nervous. (Too many of my top needs are missing and it gets too stressful for me. I don't like the Castle playground in Highland Park. Visibility is like zilch there because it is a gigantic wooden structure. Although the parking is close, only one side has a fence. When only one side has a fence and it's practically impossible to see the other side of the playground, it's a recipe for stress and worry! I do not like the Blue Slide Playground at Frick Park to the point that I won't ever go there without a helper. There are far too many danger spots and the visibility is terrible. 

Of course, the kids love the playgrounds I don't care for, so we call them "daddy playgrounds." There the ones we only go to when daddy can come with us. Adding an extra set of eyes and ears makes all the difference in parent stress on the playground.

Do you have a favorite playground? If you're from Pittsburgh, can you add to my list? I'd love to know about any other little gems out there so we can try them out!


  1. Can I add the playground/part in Squirrel Hill. At the Forward Ave and Beechwood BLVD entrance. We LOVE that playground. Great areas for kids of all ages. Great areas for dogs. Open spaces. And awesome trails!

  2. South park has a couple of great playgrounds, including a new one that is entirely fenced in! It's great!

  3. Where is Fern Park? (I'm still fairly new to the area, and I couldn't find it via Google. haha)

    Ps. Thank you for the awesome blog! I'm so glad I found it.

  4. Hey Phyllis! Thank you! Are you located in Monroeville?

    I just realized that the name of the park isn't actually Fern Park it is Ferndale Park! I will update my post!

    From Monroeville's website:
    "Ferndale - From Route 48 take Northern Pike east. At second red light, turn righ onto West Patty Lane. Make second left onto Lolly Drive and park is on the right side between East Patty Lane and Duke Lane."

  5. Cool! Thanks for letting me know--We'll check it out when the weather is nice. :)

  6. Here's a few creative playgrounds in Monroeville.....Kelvington Park off of Haymaker Road, Maple Vista off of Old Frankstown Road.
    These are great, especially for the little guys and nice, relaxing spaces with benches in the shade as well as a walking trail surrounding the play areas at Maple Vista.
    As far as Squirrel Hill the older kids are sure to enjoy the challenging climbers and exciting spinners at Colfax School at the corner of Beechwood Blvd. and Philips Ave (dedicated as Bob O'Connor Playground). Or in North Huntingdon Twp. off of Timothy Drive and Morris Avenue ......cool stuff, but not a lot of shade.

  7. Thanks for the heads up, Mark and Stacey! I will definitely be checking these places out. We are always on the hunt for a new treasure. We have been to Kelvington Park (it is only about a mile from our house), but I find it unkempt compared to other parks around town. The kids like it, though!

  8. Thank you so much for posting this! My family is relatively new to the area and I'm always looking for good playgrounds for my 6-yr-old and 2-yr-old. If I can add one to the list, it's the Dan Cohen Playground at Mellon Park. It's entirely fenced in, nicely shaded in parts by trees, and now there's a brand new splash park. Plus, there are bathrooms, which are kept very clean. I'm partial to it because it's so close to my house, but with the improvements I love it even more.

  9. Ooh! Thanks Christina! A lot of the girls from my moms group like Mellon park! We will be checking it out this summer (late summer... My 4.5 year old just broke his arm!)

    I'm going to make a whole new blog post with the additions everyone has made!