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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

I Stare at Playgrounds

Kids in Slide

I volunteer in my little Aria’s kindergarten classroom. I leave when she goes to recess and on the way out of the building, I stare at the playground—legs running, faces smiling, voices yelling, and children growing. It is one of my favorite things. I have been staring at playgrounds for many years.

My first day at Point Loma Nazarene University, I was mesmerized by . . . no, not the beautiful ocean view, but by the playground at the new Child Development Center. I immediately went to the office and added the new Child Development major to my program.

After graduation, I began looking for new playgrounds. I taught in and directed preschools, and then taught kindergarten at a private preschool. I had many wonderful experiences, but most of my memories revolve around the playgrounds.

As I reflect on my fascination with playgrounds, I believe it is not the brightly colored equipment, but the children that fascinate me. In that setting they are exploring, thinking, interacting, and playing with complete abandon. They are most like children there.

My favorite playground pieces are not necessarily expensive, but are always designed to ignite children’s imaginations. What amazing little brains! Anything is possible. Anything can be anything else. Chants and rhymes seem to flow from skipping, singing children.

My only regret in preparing teachers for so many years is that I was not always able to be with the children—and watch them play on the playgrounds. I hope I inspired all those I taught to appreciate the ability of a child to learn in playful ways. When I could, I would sneak away to volunteer, serve on evaluation teams for preschools, teach workshops at centers, and stare at playgrounds.

My office tells the true story of my passion (pictures at It is my identity. Today as I was being introduced to a campus visitor, he said, “I love your office!” “Yes, “ I said, “It is my happy place.” I think I created my own playground.

So, my New Year’s resolution? Take more time to stare at playgrounds. Encourage more people to appreciate the freedom children experience there. Help them observe those amazing little thinking brains.

Yes, this year I am going to stare at more playgrounds.

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