Ok, so it’s not quite Auckland’s worst playground, but it’s 2017 and no one reads anything online without being click-baited. Auckland’s worst playground is probably a sketchy relic from the 1970s hidden away in a dark reserve somewhere. Resembling a scene from Chernobyl, it exists only to maim local teenagers seeking a late night hang out.
This playground wasn’t like that, in fact quite the opposite, it’s newish, clean and very quiet. Sounds perfect right? Nah, not so much.
It was a Saturday morning and I had to get my toddler out of the house, so my wife and newborn could sleep-in, and because 2-year-olds are a lot like greyhounds. If you don’t run them around during the day, by evening they’ll probably bite you. Usually, Saturday mornings are a chance to do the fluffy/playground circuit around town, which is exactly as it sounds. But it was chucking down with rain, leaving us in a jam. Time to play the ace up my sleeve – Bunnings Warehouse.
I didn’t go there placing high expectations on either the fluffy or the playground but I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Firstly, the soulless café served the fluffy with the marshmallows inside it rather than on the side. The mallows are everything to my boy when he’s getting a fluffy, if they aren’t clearly visible then we’re on the brink of full nuclear meltdown. So once that tantrum was mitigated by some salvage work on the sunken marshmallows, I took a moment to enjoy my weak-ass coffee.
Then, I asked my boy if he wanted to check out the playground. “Playground?” he queried, even though we’d walked straight past it on the way to the café. So I took him to the ‘playground’ and opened the gate. “Playground” he asked again. “Well that, or some kind of futuristic prison” I replied.
Intimidatingly vertical in nature, it was hard to know how best to enter or exit the playground. It was also clearly for older kids, the type who didn’t need an indoor playground as desperately as we did, because they’re tucked up at home playing Xbox. But we persevered because that’s all we had and my little man is fairly brave when faced with age-inappropriate play equipment.
We got inside the first box and just as I was about to boost him up into the second box I realised that I probably couldn’t go any further, I’m just too big. Then in a flash forward-style premonition I saw my boy screaming out from somewhere within this toddler-gobbling playground and me unable to liberate him. In desperation I’d have no choice but to make the most of Bunnings ethnically diverse staff and ask some tiny Chinese girl to go in for the
rescue. Alternatively, we could have gone to the rope aisle first and cut a few lengths to tie around his waist, so that if things went bad he’d yank twice on the rope and I could drag him out. But no one needs that sort of action at 9am on a Saturday. So we bailed to go ogle the lawnmowers.
I know it’s a jerk move to complain about something that’s provided free as a courtesy, but what makes the play area so bad isn’t that it’s a bit crap, it’s that it’s a huge missed opportunity.
How about a Bunnings play area beautifully constructed using wood, paint and fastenings all available in store. A few info panels showing how it was built, and it would give kids something cool to play on and ‘have-a-go-hero’ dads a goal for what can be achieved in our own back yards. Or perhaps an awesome tree house, albeit three feet off the ground and not attached to a tree. Even rig up some of the playground gear Bunnings sells itself. But no, let’s just get some weird plastic box, kit-set job and dress it up with ineffective lighting and a warning sign.
Little man wasn’t angry, he was just disappointed.